Catholic Charities is enlarging its effort to help homeless veterans rebuild their lives through permanent housing, jobs and the practice of their faith.
The organization, whose overall mission is aiding the poor and vulnerable through a variety of social programs, dedicated a new, expanded transitional housing site in central Phoenix April 3 in an effort to meet what its leaders say is a significant need among the veteran population as many of its members struggle with the effects of battlefield experiences.
Catholic Charities MANA House
MANA (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force) House is a peer-run organization of homeless and formerly homeless veterans offering personal, individualized basic resources, community and advocacy for all veterans.
The new Catholic Charities MANA House (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force), off Interstate 17 about a half mile north of McDowell Road, incorporates existing aspects of the current facility off Interstate 10 and Seventh Street while adding several new components intended to more effectively address the men’s needs physically and spiritually.
“We’re thrilled. This is a huge moment for us,” said Catholic Charities Community Services president and CEO Paul Mulligan, a U.S. Navy veteran.
The fully renovated former warehouse was transformed into 25,000 square feet of living area, including 49 3-bed and 4-bed dormitory style rooms, bathrooms and showers, a kitchen, dining hall, recreation area, computer rooms and offices for meeting with career and housing advisers. There is space to add 26 more bedrooms. The current location is limited to 49 of those rooms.
The new site also will add a “roasting room” where residents will produce the veterans’ own brand of coffee, which will be packaged and sold on-site as well.
A crowd of supporters, donors, community members and corporate partners came out to help us cut the ribbon and welcome the residents to the new MANA House.
For the first time, Catholic Charities is bringing to MANA House a chapel and will staff the site with a chaplain. Mulligan said the chapel will be available for worship and prayer involving all faiths, not just Catholics.
“They’ve never had a chapel. We see people in terms of body, mind and spirit,” he said. That will “offer them the opportunity to have God in their life, being present in a community of believers, no matter what their faith is.”
“Their soul is going to be nourished here,” added Wendy Owens, senior development coordinator for Catholic Charities’ philanthropy team.
Dcn. John Scott from St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert is a retired Army major general and veteran of the Cold War era, Vietnam and Desert Storm and will serve as chaplain with his wife, Mary.
Dcn. Scott said that researchers of post-traumatic stress disorder associated with combat found affected veterans dealing with more than the mental fallout of war.
“It’s called moral injury of war. These young people come back and feel in their hearts something has been done to them, or they have done something to somebody or they have seen things that injures their spirit,” said Dcn. Scott. Veterans might ask, he said, “Am I loved after doing things to people I was told to do? How do I handle that the rest of my life?”
While drugs or alcohol often become the outlet, neither are permitted at MANA House. Residents are also required to make curfew.
“When a veteran comes in, we sit down and do an evaluation,” explained MANA House founder Terry Araman, “We ask, ‘What led you to this?’ If it’s a lack of job, we have resources on site including a computer room and staff to help put together a resumé.”
The MANA House concept was born in 2008 when 14 veterans began managing their own space at downtown Phoenix’s Men’s Outreach Shelter. In May 2010, Madison Street Veterans Association (MSVA) opened the original facility at the YMCA building in Phoenix, and in October of that year, MSVA was approved for grant and per-diem funding by the U.S. Veterans Administration. That funding continues at the new MANA House today.
A significant development came in October 2015, when Catholic Charities Community Services incorporated MSVA into its programs and renamed the transitional housing facility. CCCS is one of 600 agencies nationwide providing beds to eligible veterans, according to the VA’s website.
The facility is open to men only, and Mulligan said its members have come from the Korean War to the present.
In addition to a grant from the Arizona Department of Housing, the new facility still requires funds to repay renovation loans, according to Araman. But by April 30, all 49 current MANA House residents will move in.
“It’s nice because it really is the Catholic Church now that is in this space and doing the service,” said Mulligan. “The veterans issue has been one that hasn’t been largely adopted by any particular group. … For all the work we do on other issues, this is one that has not really found a home. I’m excited.”