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Catholic Charities (Diocese of St. Petersburg) at 1213 16th St. N., Saint Petersburg, FL 33705 US - Seniors Find Home With Shelter Ministry

Seniors Find Home With Shelter Ministry

Photo courtesy of JAMIE PILARCZYK and The Florida Catholic

Elderly Housing Ministers To Residents, Parishioners

CLEARWATER | Annie Mahony, 70, used to feel unsafe in her St. Petersburg home. Crime in the neighborhood was becoming a real problem.

So in 2004, Mahoney moved to Casa Miguel, 2285 State Road 580 in Clearwater, into a one-bedroom, unfurnished apartment with a living/dining room combination and full-size kitchen. “I moved in without seeing the apartment,” Mahoney, originally from Ireland, said. “I talked to the man upstairs and said, ‘You know what I need.’”

Casa Miguel, a shelter ministry of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Clearwater located on the property, provides subsidized housing to low-income seniors 62 and older. While the complex built with federal loan funding has been in existence since 1984, just this month Catholic Charities took over its administration from Southeast Property Management. It joins Casa Santa Cruz, a ministry of Holy Cross Parish in St. Petersburg, and Blessed Sacrament, a ministry of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tampa, as senior housing managed by Catholic Charities.

The idea for the change was mentioned by Bishop Robert N. Lynch almost 12 years ago; however not until 2004 did the process of putting Catholic Charities in control of all senior housing management begin. Casa Santa Cruz and Blessed Sacrament were the first. As of April, Casa Miguel and Patrician Arms, a ministry of St. Patrick in Tampa, were added.

“In our minds in shelter ministry, the Lord asks us to provide service to those in need,” said Frank Murphy, president of Catholic Charities. “With elderly housing on a church campus, people in the church can just go over and spend an hour there. It’s such a great opportunity to learn how to take care of people.”

The housing facilities are owned by the Diocese of St. Petersburg and governed by a board of directors from the sponsoring parish. Residents must make no more than $19,800 annually for a single person and $21,750 for a couple. Rent is based on 30 percent of residents’ adjusted gross income, minus allowable expenses such as medications and health insurance.

Murphy said the bishop’s intent was to better utilize a skill Catholic Charities was already doing well, that of property management. The organization offers housing and services for people with HIV/AIDS. San Jose Mission in Dover is a planned residential community and education/social services campus for low-income farmworker families. Bethany Family Apartments in Dade City serves homeless people with disabilities.

Adding elderly housing just made sense, Murphy said. One of the benefits to residents of the elderly housing facilities is the addition of a dedicated service coordinator. The coordinator helps put residents in touch with services such as Meals on Wheels, health education programs and assistance to navigate the processes for getting Medicaid benefits and filing taxes for the economic stimulus bonus. At Casa Miguel, residents have a Gulf Coast Legal Services volunteer help write living wills, free of charge.

“For us, ministry is what we’re about,” Murphy said. “It’s a neat marriage, open to all those who want to minister to the elderly.”

Soon to be added to the list of shelter ministries are San Clemente Villas, a ministry of St. Clement in Plant City, construction of which is scheduled to start in May and be finished by early 2009. San Lorenzo II, a ministry of St. Lawrence in Tampa, has received funding and is scheduled to open in 2010. Funding for Patrician Arms II, an addition to St. Patrick in Tampa, has been applied for and will hopefully be approved by October of this year.

With Catholic Charities at the helm, the communities are more willing than before to allow religious gatherings — of any faith — in the meeting room at residents’ requests.

Mahony has found a lot to like at Casa Miguel. She likes the view of the trees and neighborhood outside her window. She likes the tranquility and the staff. She loves listening to the life stories of the other 81 residents. “You find such a variety of people. It’s very interesting,” she said. “I’m the crazy Irish person here. … I love it.”

 

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