Catholic Charities opens first permanent supportive housing in Weld County

Guadalupe Apartments provide ‘a home with a coach’ to homeless, low-income

Thanks to Catholic Charities’ newly opened Guadalupe Apartments, this winter will be the first in seven that Christopher Llamas won’t be homeless.

“January 1 would have been the first day of the eighth year,” the 26-year-old told the Denver Catholic. “I lived under bridges and anywhere else I could find cover.”

Now he has a fully furnished studio apartment and supportive services to address the issues that led to his homelessness, which he said was trouble keeping a job due to cognitive disabilities suffered from shaken baby syndrome.

“I’m so grateful,” Llamas said about his recently acquired home. “To be able to stay warm in winter is awesome. … It’s a chance to get adjusted to normal life.”

Llamas was among some 125 people including Guadalupe Apartment residents, affordable housing leaders, stakeholders and government officials attending the Oct. 27 grand opening of Weld County’s first large-scale permanent supportive housing complex.

Located at 1520 N. 11th Ave. in Greeley, Guadalupe Apartments aims to give low-income and homeless individuals and families a path to housing stability.

“This isn’t just an apartment building,” Justin Raddatz, executive director of Archdiocesan Housing Inc., an arm of Catholic Charities, told the Denver Catholic. “It’s a home with a coach.”

The $13.5 million Guadalupe Apartments consists of 47 studio, one- and two-bedroom furnished units that combine non-time-limited affordable housing assistance with onsite supportive services, including case management, mental health assessments, and employment resources.

“The case managers purpose is to serve the residents and remove the barriers that are blocking them from achieving their goals—from needing medical referrals to learning Microsoft Word to get a job,” Raddatz said. “That’s what the Archdiocesan Housing team provides to all the residents free of charge.”

The apartments are subsidized through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development voucher program so residents’ rent cost is no more than 30 percent of their income, officials said.

Larry Smith, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Denver, led the celebratory ribbon-cutting, remarks by collaborators and reception, and thanked the many volunteers, partners and organizations that made the 16-month project possible, including US Bank, the Colorado Department of Housing, the city of Greeley, the Carrico Foundation, North Range Behavioral Health, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The project was paid for through the sales proceeds of federal low-income housing tax credits and state tax credits, officials said.

“Recently, the report from Freddie Mac about rental affordability in Colorado is not good, because it says it continues to worsen,” Smith told the crowd. “The beauty about what we’ve been able to do here by bringing together a partnership of many individual groups … is to bring about housing … that affords people who were previously homeless, dignity and respect.”

Jerry Garner, Greeley chief of police, was among the collaborators delivering remarks.

“We know, in our business, you need first a place that is safe to be before you can work on some of the other issues that may be going on in your life,” he said. “So this [facility] is helpful to all of us and not just to the people who will be living here.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila sprinkled holy water on the main door as he blessed the facility.

“O Lord our God, “ he prayed, “…pour out your blessing on all who will live here throughout the years and upon this neighborhood community and upon this city.”

Guadalupe Apartments began leasing the units in September, Raddatz said, adding that nearly every unit is already occupied. Noting the dire need for affordable housing, he said 150 households are on a wait list.

“The income limit to qualify for a unit is 30 percent of the area median income,” he told the Denver Catholic. “This is truly for people who have nothing.”

Ashley Trujillo, 24, and her two children, ages 5 and 7, moved into a two-bedroom unit two weeks ago after being homeless for six months, during which time they stayed with family, couch-surfed, and slept in their car.

“This is a good thing and a blessing—and we’re more than thankful,” the single-parent mother said, adding that with stable housing, she can now focus on furthering her education. Her hope is to become a dental hygienist.

The apartment came beautifully furnished, Trujillo said, from the furniture and appliances down to dishes in the kitchen and towels in the bathroom. Additionally, the facility includes a computer lab, a family room, a laundry room and a fitness center.

“I love it—it’s perfect,” Trujillo said. “We went from having nothing to having all this.

“Now my kids are like, ‘Are we going home after school?’” she recalled with a smile. “And I said, ‘You know it!”

COMING UP: Catholic Charities opens Denver’s largest women’s homeless shelter

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Catholic Charities opens Denver’s largest women’s homeless shelter

New shelter to provide services for up to 150 single females a night

On Aug. 24, Catholic Charities opened the largest women’s-only homeless shelter in Denver.

Samaritan House Women’s Shelter in northeast Denver will offer emergency overnight shelter for up to 100 single women and will accommodate another 50 women with a 29-day non-medical detox program designed to help them transition from homelessness.

Set to begin taking residents Sept. 15, the new site will enable Charities to shelter up to 250 single women a night when combined with the women’s quarters at Samaritan House downtown. More than 500 women will receive services annually through the 29-day program.

“Today, we’re here to celebrate a new era in offering services to homeless women in Denver,” Larry Smith, president and CEO of Charities in the Denver Archdiocese, told those gathered at the grand opening, which included Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and invited guests.

From left, Catholic Charities President and CEO Larry Smith, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, and Denver City Councilman Christopher Herndon pose for a photograph during the grand opening of the Samaritan House Women’s Shelter on August 24, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo provided by The Catholic Alliance)

The shelter’s emergency service will provide women with hot meals at Samaritan House on Lawrence Street downtown before and after transporting them to the new northeast site for the night. The shelter’s transitional program will offer women onsite meals and shelter, recovery and counseling resources, and help finding employment.

“It will allow them to collect themselves and realize that they have dignity—dignity in the eyes of God and dignity in the eyes of other human beings, which is oftentimes lost by the homeless,” Smith said. “Our goal is to have these women gain stability—stable income, stable housing—and at the end, and most importantly… self-reliance and self respect.”

The $5.1 million, 32,000-square-foot renovated facility was realized in partnership with the city of Denver, which provided a $1 million grant.

“On any given night, 150 souls can be here in this facility…150 souls can receive a tailored response to their needs,” Mayor Hancock told the crowd. Noting that he had just come from the opening of the Sanderson Apartments in southwest Denver, a city project that will serve the chronically homeless, he added, “This is a big day in the life of our city.”

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrates Mass in the Samaritan House Women’s Shelter chapel during the grand opening event on August 24, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo provided by The Catholic Alliance)

The 2017 point-in-time survey by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative shows that a third of the homeless population on a given night in January were women (1,722). Single women are among the fastest growing segments of homelessness in the nation and have a higher failure rate leaving homelessness than men because they experience greater trauma, the archbishop and Smith said.

“Here they know that they’re safe and get shelter from the storm of homelessness,” Smith told the Denver Catholic, adding that once they’re stable they can enter a more aggressive four-month program at the downtown Samaritan House that aims to further equip them to live independently.

In addition to the sleeping quarters, the new shelter includes a chapel, a prayer garden, a patio for smokers, private showers, a computer lab, a dining area and a commercial kitchen. The upper floor will house the majority of Charities’ administrative offices, which are moving from their current site in northwest Denver to keep workers “on the front lines” with the people they serve. Officials said the sale of the old administrative facility will help pay for the new shelter.

Catholic Charities President and CEO Larry Smith (R) gives Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock (C) and Denver City Councilman Christopher Herndon (L) a tour during the grand opening event of the Samaritan House Women’s Shelter on August 24, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo provided by The Catholic Alliance)

“[This] is a great joint effort by the city and the Church to reach out and help the most vulnerable,” Archbishop Aquila told the gathering. “It is a reminder to every person that no one is a ‘throwaway’ as Pope Francis has so often told us.”

The archbishop added his gratitude to that of Smith and Hancock to thank all who collaborated and donated to bring the facility to completion.

“God has never meant for anyone to be homeless,” he said. “He permits it, but it is us who have to be the ones who welcome the homeless and let them know their dignity.

“I know the Lord will bless you,” he added, “for he will never be outdone in generosity.”