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Archbishop Robert J. Carlson blessed the St. Joseph Housing Initiative’s first house in St. Louis June 27. The Estrada-Mendoza family, future homeowners, stood behind Archbishop Carlson on the steps of the house.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson blessed the St. Joseph Housing Initiative’s first house in St. Louis June 27. The Estrada-Mendoza family, future homeowners, stood behind Archbishop Carlson on the steps of the house.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

New homeowners get a special welcoming

Archbishop Carlson blesses first home renovated by St. Joseph Housing Initiative

About four dozen people formed a welcoming committee July 1 for the new owners of the first home in St. Louis renovated by the St. Joseph Housing Initiative.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was among the people the Estrada-Mendoza family met at the home on South Grand Boulevard. Archbishop Carlson, who co-founded the initiative with Bridget Flood of the Incarnate Word Foundation, blessed the home at a ceremony attended by members of the Schaper family who lived there many years.

The St. Joseph Housing Initiative is a faith-based, nonprofit entity seeking to produce quality housing for low- and moderate-income families in the St. Louis area. Archbishop Carlson and the Incarnate Word Foundation announced the initiative at a press conference a year ago at St. Mary’s High School — a program that grew from conversations Archbishop Carlson had with Flood. The home near St. Mary’s is the first to be undertaken by the coalition, with a second home also within St. Cecilia Parish already targeted.

St. Joseph Housing is a response to provide low- and moderate-income families with the opportunity to become homeowners, become part of a neighborhood community and build wealth. In blessing the home, Archbishop Carlson prayed for the new owners and noted the importance of supporting growing families. He asked that God “always be here with you” and that the family, inspired by His teachings, will make the home “a dwelling place of love.”

The home has well-maintained woodwork, doors and stained-glass windows, a detached three-car garage, a washer-and-dryer set, like-new oven and more. A goal of the rehab was to ensure the family chosen for the home won’t have to make repairs for many years.

The renovations include a new roof, a second bathroom, electrical and plumbing updates, tuckpointing and making sure all the major components of the house are solid.

Maureen McCuen, executive director of the initiative, said homeowners will attend a homebuyer education class and will be partnered with a mentor family in the neighborhood.

Tom and Doreen Gilliam of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin attending the blessing after having spent time at the home recently as volunteers. They “beautified it with God’s flowers,” as Doreen Gilliam phrased the effort in planting shrubbery and flowers.

They read about the initiative in the St. Louis Review and offered to help with whatever was needed. Tom Gilliam taught at St. Mary’s High School from 1969-74 and said he has a fondness for the neighborhood.

“We’re blessed to be a little part of this,” Doreen Gilliam said. “And we signed up for the next one. We’re hooked.”

Initially, the St. Joseph Housing Initiative is rehabilitating houses around the diverse Carondelet and Dutchtown neighborhoods of south St. Louis.The aim is to provide increased homeownership and added stability in neighborhoods with high rates of rental housing. St. Louis City has an ownership rate of 47.7 percent compared to 72 percent in St. Louis County and 82.8 percent in St. Charles County, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

>> Supporters

The St. Joseph Housing Initiative, which is a separate charitable organization, includes support from:

• The Incarnate Word Foundation

• Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

• Five Catholic parishes — St. Cecilia, Resurrection, St. John the Baptist, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Stephen Protomartyr

• St. Mary’s High School, which among other things is donating office space

• The Archdiocese of St. Louis

• Saint Louis University

For information, email [email protected].

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