Help vulnerable people in need of shelter.
There is an estimated shortage of 7.3 million units of affordable housing for 11 million extremely low-income renters — those who live below the poverty line of $30,000 in annual income for a family of four.
Our neighbors need help. Three quarters of all renter households are unable to pay more than $694 per month in rent, but only one in four families that qualify for housing assistance ever receives it.
National data sources: “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes,” April 2022, the National Low Income Housing Coalition; “Poverty in the United States: 2021,” September 2022, U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Government Accountability Office; and Bureau of Labor Statistics
In Santa Rosa, California, Caritas Village is serving the local unhoused population with dignity and care in its state-of-the-art facilities.
Who Needs Housing?
Some of the most vulnerable among us — families, seniors, veterans, the chronically homeless and more — receive Catholic Charities services such as emergency shelter, temporary housing and long-term housing with social support. That includes low-income renters, who are among those most likely to fall through the cracks.
37% work in retail, food/beverage service, home health and building cleaning.
Those with disabilities
19% have a disability and may depend on Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
27% are seniors on fixed incomes with limited resources for food and medicine.
Those going without
They spend 38% less on food and 70% less on health care than other renters.
Having a safe, affordable home is fundamental to well-being. Explore some of the initiatives of Catholic Charities agencies across the country as they find creative, workable solutions to the shortage of affordable housing units and the nation’s homelessness crisis.
MAKING A HOME
Affordable Housing Project Development
Agencies increase affordable housing supply via new construction and maintain current portfolios through rehabilitation and extending affordability controls. Agencies build, own and manage housing for low-income families, seniors and those with special needs, as well as workforce housing and some first-time homeownership projects. Several agencies also redevelop and convert under-utilized church properties into affordable housing.
Housing services help ensure resident success and prevent homelessness before it starts with funds for emergency rent payments and other supports. Several agencies provide housing counseling for pre-purchase, foreclosure prevention and workshops on fair housing, predatory lending and financial education.
Healthy Housing Initiative
Housing is the social determinant of health. The Healthy Housing Initiative (HHI) seeks to reduce chronic homelessness in five cities by turning homeless clients into residents. HHI secures service-enriched affordable housing that is permanent in nature, moving individuals beyond shelters and transitional housing.
Learn more about the Healthy Housing Initiative.
Lunch among ladies
Parishioners and women experiencing homelessness find deep meaning in shared monthly meals.
Meet the Clients
The lack of affordable housing leads to a cascading list of social ills: frayed relationships, poor academic performance for children, food scarcity, health crises, lost wages and a history of evictions that makes it harder to find the next livable place. The lives of these Catholic Charities clients* changed dramatically once they had homes of their own.
*True stories. Names have been changed to protect identities.
THE PERFECT FIT
Jack, a disabled veteran with PTSD, had been homeless for more than a year, living in his car. A longtime cross-country truck driver, he could no longer drive due to back pain and had to put his mother in assisted living. His Social Security disability application was in appeal, and he was awaiting VA housing.
Jack was angry and stressed when he arrived at Catholic Charities. Fortunately, there was an opening at an 8-unit property close to his mother. A referral for a Catholic Charities senior dining program also helped.
Jack has finally been approved for Social Security and likes how his neighbors look out for each other but still respect one another’s privacy. It’s the perfect fit.
Learn more about the housing services of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota.
FRIENDS AND A NEW LIFE
After a divorce, Leonard rented a subpar “temporary” upstairs room. A diabetic, he developed infections that led to the amputations of his lower right leg and left toes. Navigating the stairs was difficult. After three years, he was still on waiting lists for other apartments.
He ended up in a nursing home. One day, a Catholic Charities staffer visited another client and met Leonard. A one-bedroom apartment was available in the Thea Bowman Residence in Amityville, the first-of-its-kind community on Long Island for persons with physical disabilities. Leonard was able to move in right away.
His bathroom is accessible, he has an aide and transportation, and he receives food from Long Island Cares monthly. Leonard now plays games every evening with neighbors and attends building parties and activities. It’s been two years, and he’s very happy.
Learn more about the housing services of Catholic Charities of Long Island, New York.
A COUPLE CATCHES ‘A LUCKY BREAK’
Peter, a veteran, was disabled in a 2012 workplace accident. No longer employed, he moved to Tucson with a friend. Every place, including the VA, had limited housing resources. Then he met his love, Rachel. But rent was always just out of reach, even with Section 8 vouchers, and working anything more than a part-time job jeopardized his disability payments.
The couple relocated to Albuquerque, to be nearer his doctors. Waiting lists for affordable housing were long there, too.
Then, “we finally just caught a lucky break,” Peter said, in the form of a Catholic Charities program giving priority to veterans. Peter and Rachel moved to the Encantada Apartments, which offer social services such as health and nutrition education and financial literacy. “I feel that I have been blessed with this opportunity of hope in finding home.”
Learn more about the housing services of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Need assistance? Find a local Catholic Charities agency.
Catholic Charities agencies are among the nation’s largest providers of affordable housing as well as emergency and temporary housing options.
Permanent housing units for families, seniors, veterans and others
Clients accessed homelessness services
Healthy Housing Initiative
The Healthy Housing Initiative combines health and housing services in five cities to help the chronically homeless remain off the streets.
Every two years, after a new Congress is seated, CCUSA’s Social Policy Team crafts legislative priorities and recommendations based on the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Charities network of agencies and the needs of the vulnerable populations Catholic Charities serves.
I feel that I have been blessed with this opportunity of hope in finding home.– Peter, a disabled veteran now living in safe, affordable housing.
Curtis H. Johnson, Jr.
Curtis is the vice president of housing strategy, convening the network around best practices, project development/preservation strategies, resident social services and the repurposing of church property into housing. He serves as a resource on project development analysis, funding strategies and peer connections to advance projects and cultivates the network’s collective impact to leverage philanthropic capital and favorable federal policies.