A special thank you to our Grant Partner the Catherine McAuley Center for writing this guest blog and telling us about their work.

After nearly three decades of offering transitional housing for unaccompanied women, Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) expanded services to help more women in the community. With the support of the Iowa Women’s Foundation, CMC launched a Supportive Housing Program in February of 2020. Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definitions of homelessness, some women in our community do not have access to housing options that best meet their needs. With the addition of CMC’s Supportive Housing, women now have access to a female-responsive program. CMC’s Supportive Housing can be seen as a “next step” for women who have previously experienced crisis, have since gained a level of stability (in some cases, through transitional housing at CMC), but still benefit from positive connections and support. The residents of this program are provided with opportunities to learn and practice skills that facilitate growth, community connection, and independence. CMC’s Supportive Housing Program is lease-based, meaning they are able to build credit and establish a leasing history. As a result, the women we serve are much more likely to find long-term housing once they leave our Supportive Housing Program.

After the past year of uncertainty and disarray, Supportive Housing residents have not only maintained their housing; but they have been able to take time to improve the areas of their life that were not being attended to. Jennifer Tibbetts, our Women’s Services Director, remarked that “Even while enduring the pandemic and the derecho, the women in our program have had an entire one-year cycle of success! These women have improved their general health, their mental health, their relationships, and their overall outlook on life.”

Ramona, a current participant of the Supportive Housing Program, shared how Supportive Housing has been an opportunity to build on the skills she learned in Transitional Housing. “Supportive Housing has given me the opportunity to live on my own in a safe environment where I can explore who I am. I get to make my own food, I get to determine who is allowed in my environment, and at the end of the day, I am able to sleep in my own bed without having to worry about my safety. In Transitional Housing, I was learning about the things I needed to heal from; picking up the broken pieces of me. Now, in Supportive Housing, I am able to take the time to get to know myself, while also being able to reach out to other CMC program participants as supports in my journey.”

When asked what people should know about CMC’s Supportive Housing Program, Director Jennifer Tibbetts stated that “Some people tend to be unsupportive toward housing projects like this in our community, but people should know how much our Supportive Housing residents are contributors to the community. After the derecho, the Supportive Housing residents made sure that everyone was okay and had the support that they needed. They have constantly given back through acts of kindness, and they are assets to the communities that they belong to.”