Appeal eases housing problems

Last winter code violations and safety concerns forced a single mother and her two children to leave their home and seek new housing. With very little money and nowhere else to turn, the family ended up at one of Catholic Family Center’s homeless shelters, where staff members worked with the family to find them a suitable apartment. The mother did not have enough money to pay the $550 the landlord required as a security deposit, however.

Catholic Family Center’s staff stepped in and paid the security deposit using funds from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, said Bobbi McGarrity, senior case manager for Catholic Family Center’s Community Resource Services in Rochester. The family has been living in the apartment for eight months now and is doing very well, McGarrity said.

The family is one of many that probably would not have been able to find housing without one-time financial assistance from the Christmas Appeal, which is an annual campaign that raises money for the emergency funds of various Catholic Charities agencies and affiliated agencies throughout the diocese.

"We’re seeing so many people needing money for a security deposit to secure housing. Funds are really drying up communitywide for that kind of assistance," McGarrity said. "The Christmas Appeal gives us the flexibility to meet those needs without having to go through a bunch of hoops."

McGarrity said the agency is seeing an increasing number of people who need financial assistance in order to obtain housing. Finding housing that’s safe and affordable can be very difficult, and this especially is true for people who receive public assistance, as landlords don’t always want to work with Monroe County’s Department of Human Services to work out a lease agreement that doesn’t include a security deposit, McGarrity said.

"Getting in there without a security deposit is pretty impossible. We are seeing people staying in our (homeless) shelters longer because they’re having a problem getting landlords to work with the Department of Human Services," she said.

Catholic Family Center’s staff members also are seeing an increased number of clients who need help paying their utility bills. Last February Bishop Salvatore R. Matano asked parishes throughout the Diocese of Rochester to hold voluntary second collections for those struggling to meet winter heating costs, and proceeds from those collections were distributed to diocesan Catholic Charities agencies, which were struggling to assist all the people who came to them for help.

"Boy, when the gates opened for us to be able to distribute some of those funds to people in need, it was crazy," McGarrity remarked.

The agency also has seen an increased demand for food, she said, noting that Catholic Family Center’s food cupboard was virtually bare at one point over the summer.

"It got to the point where we had sauerkraut and mango salsa, but nothing to really make a meal out of," she said. "We had to reach out to many parishes while we were waiting for our Foodlink grant to come in. The parishes really stepped up and helped us."

Funds from the Christmas Appeal are useful because they can be used to purchase food for the cupboard, help people pay utility bills, secure housing or meet any number of needs that might present themselves, McGarrity said.

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