A special thank you to our 2022 Grantee Partner, Catherine McAuley Center, for writing this guest blog and sharing more about an organization that sets the bar high when it comes to making a difference in the community. To learn more about them, visit cmc-cr.org.

What are the elements of a home? According to Henry David Thoreau, “…a home, a place for warmth, or comfort, first of physical warmth, then the warmth of the affections.”

Through the generosity of the Iowa Women’s Foundation, such a welcoming place has been made more possible for people like Desiree, a client of Catherine McAuley Center’s Supportive and Transitional Housing programs.

“Your safety, your security—it’s everything! The world is unsafe, and it should be safe at home,” Desiree explains. The Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) has a history of supporting those who face significant barriers to maintaining safe and stable housing through its Women’s Services programs, Transitional, and Supportive Housing. Supportive Housing, added to CMC’s programming in February of 2020 (and expanded by an additional housing unit in 2021), offers women who have passed through Transitional Housing a next step in a home environment. One with more independence that still grants access to the CMC supports residents have been able to lean on in the past. Most importantly, the program is lease-based, allowing women to build positive rental history before pursuing public housing.

While ideas of the comforts of home can change from person to person and culture to culture, most want to feel the same feelings when going home. In the words of feminist and author, Maya Angelou, “Home is a refuge not only from the world but a refuge from my worries, my troubles, my concerns.”

Like many trauma survivors, home has not always been a safe place for Desiree. A person who values family and connection, Desiree lives with other survivors who have also struggled with substance abuse, codependent relationships, and long-standing trauma. Residents at CMC maintain a communal home with others and continue strengthening group and individual decision-making skills.  “Making my home at CMC has been interesting. I’ve been mindful and respectful of other residents’ routines, and we do very well with respecting each other. I love the staff, and their willingness to be human and share their struggles. It makes me feel closer to them,” Desiree explained. When describing her home at CMC, Desiree says, “I’m a girly girl at home! I love my house to smell good. I have my area rugs, my photos of family to look at on my walls, and I love my Christmas lights and my home to look festive around the holidays.”

Desiree is nearly 2 years into recovery and finds the structures provided at CMC to be a needed balance to her new life. “I came here 6 months sober, but I wanted to do baby steps. I had to have more freedom, but needed structure.”  A person committed to her sobriety, she finds the curfew, the checking in, and the supportive safety to be key elements in maintaining her health and her journey towards financial independence. Through Supportive housing, residents gain an understanding of their rights and responsibilities as renters through monthly rental payments they are required to pay while rebuilding (or building) their credit history. “I’m focusing on my financial wellness; I’ve been able to save money and work on myself,” she says. “This place gave me the freedom to live my life sober.”