Homeless fix? Homes
While people often talk in vague terms about ending homelessness, members of Grand Valley Catholic Outreach adhere to a no-nonsense mantra: You cannot end homelessness without homes.
With that in mind, the nonprofit agency is creating another apartment complex to house the homeless. Construction is slated to begin next spring on the 24-unit St. Martin Place II, just west the agency’s latest development on Pitkin Avenue.
“In terms of telling the story around helping the homeless we can talk and talk, but you have to take the next step,” said Sister Karen Bland, executive director of Grand Valley Catholic Outreach.
Bland said she thought St. Martin Place, 415 S. Third St., would be the last housing endeavor for Catholic Outreach, but the agency’s board members pressed for more.
“I thought I was going to get a breath in after St. Martin Place,” Bland said, referring to the housing project completed in 2012. “This board is so enthusiastic. No one gives us money to sit on.”
Catholic Outreach has secured land and five rundown homes on Pitkin Avenue to create the $2.6 million project. Housing will be offered first to homeless military veterans, and then to other homeless individuals. Catholic Outreach offers housing to individuals who have a combination of being chronically homeless and who have other issues including physical or mental disabilities. Housing recipients have case managers who meet with clients once a week to help set goals.
After St. Martin Place II is created, Catholic Outreach will have created 63 units for homeless individuals. That includes 16 one-bedroom apartments at St. Martin Place and 23 units at St. Benedict Place, in the 200 block of White Avenue.
Beverly Lampley, a director of development and communication with Catholic Outreach, said the group has raised money for the project through a quiet campaign and grant requests have been filed. More money must be raised, but officials will disclose how much at a later date.
Catholic Outreach will again use Chamberlin Architects and Shaw Construction to create the new units, a way to save money by reusing the designs. The new development will be three buildings of tidy, brick one-bedroom apartments, mirror images of St. Martin Place.
“This is going to look so nice,” Lampley said, while standing in front of dilapidated homes on Pitkin Avenue. “Who would have thought all this could have happened in 10 to 12 years.”
St. Benedict Place was created four years ago, and apartment seekers still inquire about renting units. To them, Bland likes to ask the most important question.
“Are you homeless?” she asks.
“Well, no, of course not,” Bland said, they reply.
She’ll come back with: “You can’t rent it, then.”