CDA funds help build community life

For Catholic Charities, heeding the Gospel mandate to provide shelter to the homeless means more than windows and walls.

“We love to build community. And we think that building community — it’s more than a roof over their heads,” said Sarah Hamilton, who oversees the resident services team at Catholic Charities’ affordable housing sites. “It’s knowing their neighbors, having relationships and being in a place where they know that they are seen and heard, and their dignity is held in a high regard.”

The focus is on the fact that each person has a story to tell and gifts to bring, Hamilton said.

“So that’s what we focus on — what can we all bring to the table to love and serve one another?”

Charity and Development Appeal (CDA)

The Charity and Development Appeal supports more than 70 educational, charitable and spiritual organizations which counsel, feed clothe, house, educate and comfort those in need throughout the four counties in the Diocese of Phoenix.


Through funding from the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Charity & Development Appeal, Catholic Charities is able to provide resident services at each of the five affordable housing communities it operates in the Phoenix Diocese, including Laurel Tree, a 70-unit community that opened Feb. 27. Eighteen of the units are for individuals and families with a serious mental illness who live independently and who receive one-on-one case management.

Phoenix’s rapid growth has led to a sharp decrease in affordable housing for low-income individuals. With luxury apartments springing up in many areas, it’s not easy for families of limited means to secure housing.

Malissa Geer, senior director of community and resident engagement and volunteer services, pointed to the critical need for affordable housing.

“When a family is able to have stable, quality, affordable housing — that means that a parent or guardian can be more fully employed and they can sleep better,” Geer said. “We know that research says that quality housing and stable housing decrease instances of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect.”

Resident services provided at Laurel Tree and the other Catholic Charities affordable living sites sprinkled throughout the Valley, help strengthen families. From before and after-school programs to book clubs and financial literacy coaching, the services are there to guide and support residents.

Leo De La Garza, a member of the community who lives in an apartment adjacent to the Catholic Charities-run Rosewood Court affordable housing community, takes part in the Mobile Food Pantry at Rosewood. De La Garza is a regular volunteer. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

According to Jean Christofferson, director of marketing for Catholic Charities, it’s the resident services that help build community.

Catholic Charities
Housing for Hope

Properties are currently open in Phoenix, Tempe and Glendale.
Eight single-family properties exist in Goodyear and senior housing is in the works in Flagstaff at the former St. Mary’s Catholic School site.

“Our resident services team is truly what makes a difference between success and failure sometimes,” Christofferson said. That’s because some residents may have experienced long-term homelessness.

“They’ve been on the streets or in different shelters. Here they are and they’re starting fresh, living in a community, but they are kind of lost.”

The resident services help provide direction and establish relationships, connecting residents with partners in the community who can help. Mobile food pantries, for example, have scheduled visits to help feed those who might not have enough to eat.

One resident at a Catholic Charities affordable housing site is a man who spent 15 years living on the streets. A recovering addict, he’s been clean for 12 years. His rent is $1,000 a month — $400 less than the apartment in North Phoenix he could no longer afford. For other residents, the struggles are less dramatic.

“If someone comes in and says, ‘I need a walker, I’m not able to get around, and I can’t afford one,’ they will make those calls and make those inquires to help connect them with what they need,” Christofferson said.

Princess Norris, who is among the residents at Rosewood Court, a Catholic Charities-run affordable housing community, smiles as she chats with a Catholic Charities volunteer. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Paul Mulligan, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Community Services, expressed deep gratitude to those who contribute to the CDA and help fund resident services as well as staffing, supplies and community celebrations that bring residents together as supportive and relational neighbors.

“Our resident services specialists treat the residents with the utmost dignity and respect. And even more, they become an integral part of the community,” Mulligan said. “Nothing is better than walking around one of our affordable housing communities with a resident services team member and hearing all the warm greetings and well-wishes.

“They know each resident by name and understand what is happening in the lives of our residents,” he added.

Geer agreed. “Every family, every person has the inherent dignity of God, and it is our responsibility as people of faith to join God in caring for the most vulnerable.”