Officials of the Diocese of Oakland and representatives for the Casa Vincentia women's shelter have signed an agreement concerning their differences over a building owned by the diocese and occupied by the women's shelter.
According to the agreement signed June 11, Casa Vincentia will leave the building, a former convent at St. Cyril Parish. An engineering study by the diocese indicated there were seismic safety issues with the building; and the diocese could not afford the repairs.
Diocesan and Casa Vincentia representatives met last September and Casa Vincentia agreed it would find a new home in 90 days. Casa Vincentia, which is not a diocesan operation, also had not paid rent since 2007. After several attempts at a meeting, the diocese initiated eviction proceedings, which culminated in the June 11 agreement.
As part of that agreement, the shelter program, which has provided a haven to homeless, pregnant women for some 25 years, has until Oct. 24 to find a new home.
"We were concerned about these young women and their safety, that's why we embarked on this," said Rev. George Mockel, vicar general. "We've tried for over a year to work out a solution."
"It is our fervent hope that the move take place long before Oct. 24," said Mike Brown, diocesan spokesman. "We don't want the women to be there in unsafe conditions."
Barbara Jackson, executive director at Casa Vincentia, said while "October seems like a long way away it really isn't." In addition to packing boxes there are confidential documents to shred, furniture to give away and a myriad of other chores.
All offers of volunteer help will be accepted during this moving process, Jackson said, adding she is starting a volunteer list for anyone who wants to help. "We still have bills to pay," she said. To inquire about volunteer opportunities phone 510-729-0316.
Jackson said that she will also accept any leads in the effort to find another building to house Casa Vincentia and continue the life-saving effort of helping young pregnant women who are alone, troubled or thinking that aborting her child is the answer to her problems.
"I don't know what God's will is — that is what faith is about," Jackson said.
A building site study last year turned up serious seismic safety issues. The work needed to address these safety concerns would be detailed and too expensive for the diocese to cover financially.
Because the shelter can no longer operate at its current site, the court agreement specifies that no new clients be allowed to occupy the building — an issue Jackson had previously resisted. She described Casa Vincentia as an important ministry that is and must continue to save lives. "How can I say no to a woman in need of shelter?" she said. "What will happen to poor and marginalized pregnant women in the community if Casa is closed?"
The agreement also called for both parties to make a "reasonable and good faith effort" to find another site for the program as well as work together to find alternative housing for the shelter's current clients. Jackson told The Voice she would accept the diocese's assistance in the search for another building.
But while diocesan officials repeated their earlier offer of providing help to place the women in other facilities, Jackson insisted that this was a task that she would handle herself. She wants to talk to the women one-on-one, put them at ease in light of current developments and "see what they have on their minds."
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