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Catholic Voice
  May 30, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA

Casa Vincentia needs a new home

Oakland’s Casa Vincentia, which has provided shelter for young pregnant homeless women for 26 years, is itself in need of a new home.

The Diocese of Oakland, which owns the building, has taken legal action to force Casa Vincentia to abandon the building and relocate due to “life safety” reasons.

Casa Vincentia, located at 3210 62nd Ave., is housed in the former convent of St. Cyril Parish. In 2011, the building underwent a risk assessment evaluation, as did other properties owned by the diocese. The review process turned up three or four “significant life issues,” Mike Brown, diocesan spokesman said.

The building is not up to “seismic standards” and needs to be retrofitted in order for the women to safely remain there, Brown said. However, the diocese does not have the funds to renovate the building. In its role as the landlord, the diocese had to act. “It is our liability to make sure the building is safe,” Brown said.

Diocesan officials said they have tried on several occasions to talk with Barbara Jackson, Casa Vincentia’s longtime director, about the matter. But their attempts to contact her were met with silence, Brown said. Jackson disagrees. She said she had responded to the diocese’s attempts to reach her and that diocesan officials have not returned her calls.

In any case, both Jackson and Brown agree that a meeting about Casa Vincentia did take place last September. Jackson, who was accompanied by some of the organization’s board members, met with diocesan officials to go over the problem. At this meeting Jackson asked for 90 more days to come up with a moving out plan, Brown said.

The 90 days came and went and diocesan officials have not heard from Jackson, Brown said. “We can’t ignore the life safety issues,” Brown said, adding that the diocese was moved to act out of concern for Casa Vincentia’s clientele.

With the matter going nowhere diocesan officials met with a lawyer to review its options. Casa Vincentia has not paid rent since 2007. And the diocese, on its part, did nothing to collect the back rent.

Brown said that bringing the organization to court for nonpayment of rent was its only option. It is “not about the rent,” he said, but it was the only recourse.

Jackson said she was appalled the diocese did such a thing, adding that the issue of money had not been brought up before.

Brown said the diocese’s offer to help the women find new housing, is “still on the table,” But that Jackson’s continued silence left the diocese with no other options except eviction. “She would not talk to us.”

In February the diocese’s lawyer drafted a letter summarizing the situation and sent it to Jackson. Legal proceedings began soon after.

Casa Vincentia was founded in 1986 by the two districts of the diocese’s St. Vincent de Paul Society in cooperation with its board. An article in The Catholic Voice noted that center would be the first time since the Catholic Charities sponsored Maycrest home was closed in 1970 that an organization of this kind would be active in the Oakland diocese.

The article noted that Holy Names Sister Maureen Webb, who at that time worked as a consultant for the diocese on Respect Life and bio-ethics, "spearheaded the project" as part of her work.

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