|November 10, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 19 • Oakland, CA|
Senior Living & Resources
Former convent offers a new home
for seniors who had none
The continuing generosity of a religious order that served West Oakland for 10 years will be felt for years to come, with the purchase of its former convent by St. Mary's Center.
Also on that complex is the transitional housing, where seniors — in this world, 55 is the entry point to seniorhood — make their home.
About the time the winter shelter opens Dec. 1, the doors to Presentation House, a few blocks away will open for a half-dozen residents who will call it home.
For people over 55, affordable housing is getting harder to come by in Oakland. Of the 82 people who spent time at the winter shelter last year, for example, 40 percent found permanent housing.
Presentation House, named for the community of U.S. Province of Irish Presentation Sisters who owned it and sold it at favorable terms to St. Mary's Center, may be a small part of the solution, but it is part of the solution.
The sisters bought the house in 2006. Workers have been making one of the bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, and creating an additional bedroom. Even though the house had been renovated before its purchase by the sisters, there is some structural work to be completed before the residents can move in.
The carpeting has been removed, and will be replaced with flooring. The residents will each have a separate bedroom, and will share the common living and dining rooms, as well as the kitchen, laundry room and four bathrooms.
Sister Marilyn Medau, a Presentation sister of San Francisco who directs the food program at St. Mary's Center, saw one of the Irish Presentation sisters at Mass at Sacred Heart Church. The Irish sisters have served as teachers at St. Martin de Porres School; the school's primary grades attend classes at the Sacred Heart campus.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if St. Mary's could buy our house?" the Irish sister asked.
"Absolutely," Sister Marilyn answered.
Meanwhile, Carol Johnson, executive director of St. Mary's Center, had had her eye on the neighborhood. She was working with a real estate agent to find a property that would be suitable for expanding the center's transitional housing for seniors programs.
The sisters were giving away furniture in preparation for their move when Johnson visited the convent on 32nd Street to help a St. Mary's client pick up a piece of furniture.
Sizing up the property, Johnson suggested: "Maybe you'd like to sell it to us."
The reply: "I don't think you can afford it."
But the community took the proposal to prayer, and told Johnson: We'll sell it to you for two-thirds of its appraised value.
The sisters had paid $750,000 for the house; it was appraised at $500,000.
St. Mary's board approved the sale at $500,000. The sisters are carrying the note for a year and, true to their word, made a donation of $175,000 to St. Mary's Center. The center's grant writer has been writing proposals.
Some of the furnishings for the house have been donated by the Holy Names sisters, who recently sold their Los Gatos convent.
Johnson is delighted with the purchase, and for the future of the house's soon-to-be residents. "Our programs have been very successful," she said. "This will be equally successful."
What's unique, she said, is that "people in our current program agree to be engaged in case management."
"When people come into the shelter, they have to engage in case management," she said. This gives them the opportunity to work on recovery, money management and mental health issues, she said.
The residents of Presentation House, which she described as permanent, supportive housing, will be offered the same opportunity.
"We have the capacity," she said. "We want people to engage in that," she said, adding that case management contributes to successful outcomes.
Presentation House may not be a long-term solution for individuals, who likely will move to more private residences in the future.
"We need to move people on and make space for others," she said.
Presentation House will have a staff person about 15 hours a week to assist the community. Residents will share shopping and chores, and have weekly house meetings.
"Nobody's going to be hungry here," Johnson said.
The residents will pay rent of one-third of their income, and an additional $50 for utilities.
The opportunity to be the first residents of Presentation House may go to the residents of the current transitional housing at St. Mary's Center.
When the residents move in, they will find a little patch of green in their urban landscape. The drought may have taken its toll on the backyard grass, but the lemon tree is full of fruit.
back to top
|Copyright © 2014 The Catholic Voice, All Rights Reserved. Site design by Sarah Kalmon-Bauer.|