Archdiocesan Housing lends helping hand to people from all walks of life

Moira Cullings

Six months after Christina moved to Denver, she received an unpleasant, life-changing surprise.

Her rent jumped from $675 to $1,000 at the end of her lease. With her job as a server at an airport restaurant, Christina wouldn’t be able to afford such a dramatic rent increase. She would have to move again.

“I don’t know how people afford to live here, honestly,” said Christina.

Feeling out of options, she took a chance when a friend suggested looking into affordable housing.

Christina applied for the Archdiocesan Housing program, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, and received an offer for a one-bedroom apartment for much cheaper. Now, she can once again afford to live in Denver and keep her job, rather than move somewhere else and start all over again.

“It’s been a very good fit for me,” said Christina. “I find it a pretty quiet place to live, and I’ve always had very positive experiences with management.”

Broadway Junction in Denver allows residents to pay affordable rent and continue living in the city they love.

This year, Archdiocesan Housing is celebrating its 50th anniversary — five decades of serving a wide range of people in all walks of life, from the homeless to first-year teachers who could not otherwise afford to live in Denver.

Archdiocesan Housing was founded at the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as well as the Fair Housing Act, which made it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to or negotiate with someone based on categories like race, religion and status.

Now, the housing program is as needed as ever.

“The unfortunate state of Colorado and the nation is there’s an incredible affordable housing crisis,” said Justin Raddatz, Executive Director of Archdiocesan Housing.

“Within Colorado, one third of all renter households are paying more than 30 percent of their income towards rent,” he said. “Twenty five percent of renter households are paying more than half of their income towards rent.

“The crisis it creates is people in that situation saying, ‘Do I pay the rent bill, or do I buy medication for my family?’”

It’s been a very good fit for me.”

The program has grown tremendously over the years and now manages 1,700 apartment units, owning all but 200 of them. The units make up 29 properties, which are strategically located around Denver and beyond.

An example of the tactical placement is the program’s newest development — the Guadalupe Apartments in Greeley.

“It ties into a homeless shelter that Catholic Charities has operated for the last nine years,” said Raddatz. “On the same site, we built a 47-unit apartment building right across the parking lot to serve the folks that are coming through the shelter.”

The Guadalupe Apartments in Greeley are the newest development for Archdiocesan Housing and help those coming out of a homeless shelter just across the parking lot to find better stability.

Building an apartment near a homeless shelter is meant to help people begin a life of long-term stability, rather than exit temporary housing and end up struggling financially all over again or become completely homeless.

Raddatz explained it’s not difficult to fill the Archdiocesan Housing buildings, and that the average waiting list for a property is two to three years but can reach up to seven or eight years.

“What we’ve decided is we want to serve the most vulnerable,” said Raddatz. “In the affordable housing world, those are the people that are homeless or the closest to being homeless.”

Although the program seeks to help those particularly at rock bottom, each property is set up to serve a specific income range. Some serve families who are homeless, others serve first-year firefighters or those who work in fields that don’t require a degree. The properties are designed for individuals as well as families.

The program doesn’t serve anyone based on their religion, but on their need.

“We’re not in the business of serving people because they’re Catholic,” said Raddatz. “We serve people because we’re Catholic.”

Raddatz explained that the people in Archdiocesan Housing come from a variety of situational backgrounds, from substance abuse issues to PTSD to mental illness.

“As many residents as we have, we have that many backgrounds and stories about why they got to where they got,” said Raddatz. “The common thread is they didn’t have a support network like most of us do to help pick them up when they fell.”

We’re not in the business of serving people because they’re Catholic. We serve people because we’re Catholic.”

Many made bad decisions in their lives or went through unfortunate circumstances, he added.

“But they didn’t have anyone there to lend a hand when they needed help. We want to be that hand to help pick them up.”

To accommodate each individual even further, the program offers additional services including case management, counseling and job training to help each person with their particular situation.

Raddatz believes that what sets Archdiocesan Housing apart from other affordable housing options is the program’s compassion.

He and his team have a huge hope for those who enter Archdiocesan Housing, whether it happens immediately or years down the road.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to bring souls closer to Christ,” he said.

For more information, visit the Archdiocesan Housing website.

COMING UP: Why 42 had to be impeached twenty years ago

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Twenty years ago this month, I found myself seriously double-booked, so to speak.

The editing of the first volume of my John Paul II biography, Witness to Hope, was entering the ninth inning, and I was furiously engaged in exchanging edited and re-edited copy with my editors in New York. At the same time, the Clinton impeachment drama was cresting. And as I had long done speechwriting for Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I spent week after week of split time, working on John Paul II from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., then switching to impeachment for a couple of hours before returning to Witness to Hope in the evening.

It was not the optimal way to work but it had to be done, even if it seemed likely that the president would be acquitted in a Senate trial. On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives voted two articles of impeachment and senior House members, including Mr. Hyde, solemnly walked the two articles across the Capitol and presented them to the Senate’s leaders. On toward midnight, Henry Hyde called me and, referring to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, said, “We’re not going to make it. Trent won’t fight; I saw it in his eyes.” After a long moment I replied that, if we were going to lose, we had a duty to lay down a record with which history would have to reckon.

Which is what the great Henry Hyde did during the January 1999 Senate trial, where he bent every effort to prevent the proceedings from descending into farce.

For Hyde, the impeachment of President Bill Clinton was an unavoidable piece of nasty business. It was not a matter of partisan score-settling, nor was it a matter of punishing a president for gross behavior with an intern in the White House. It was a matter of defending the rule of law. As Henry put it to me when it seemed clear that the president had perjured himself and obstructed justice, “There are over a hundred people in federal prisons for these crimes. How can the chief law enforcement officer of the United States be guilty of them and stay in office?”

Impeachment is a political process and it was clear by mid-fall of 1998 that the politics were not breaking toward removing the president from office. They had been pointed that way over the summer, though. And as the pressures built, it seemed as if the Clinton presidency might end as Richard Nixon’s had: Party elders, in this case Democrats, would go to the White House, explain that it was over, and ask the president to resign for the sake of the country. Then around Labor Day that year, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times and other columnists began suggesting that, if Clinton were impeached and convicted, the sexual revolution would be over, the yahoos of reaction would have won, and we’d be back to something resembling Salem, Massachusetts, during the witchcraft insanity.

That was preposterous. It was also effective. And within days, at least in Washington, you could fill the templates shifting: This wasn’t about the rule of law, it was about sex and the yahoos couldn’t be allowed to win. (That Henry Hyde was the leader of the pro-life forces in Congress neatly fit this storyline, of course, abortion being a major plank in the platform of the sexual revolution.)

So once the game was redefined — Are you for or against the puritanical yahoos? — there was little chance to wrench the political process back to what it was really about: the rule of law. In his opening speech during the president’s trial, Henry Hyde tried valiantly to refocus the argument, insisting that high office did not absolve a man from obeying his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the laws of the United States and his oath swearing to tell the truth to a federal grand jury. To suggest that it did was to “break the covenant of trust” between president and people, dissolving “the mortar that binds the foundation stones of our freedom into a secure and solid edifice.”

It wasn’t a winning argument. But it was the right argument. And on this 20th anniversary, the nation should remember with gratitude those like Henry Hyde who, under fierce assault, stood for the rule of law.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr