Partnering with New Eyes: St. Joseph's Housing Initiative

Sister Mary Ann Nestel, CSJ

As we are called by our Acts of Chapter to explore new ways of partnering to serve the marginalized, the St. Louis province is a partner in the St. Joseph Housing Initiative (SJHI), a new non-profit organization in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Its mission is to create vibrant, faith-filled communities through affordable, quality housing where low and moderate income families can thrive and prosper.

SJHI Board Chair Sister Mary Ann Nestel shares more with us about the program's inception, its funding and its future plans.

What is the St. Joseph Housing Initiative and whom does it serve?
The program provides neighborhood stability as well as stability to homebuyers who may not otherwise be able to build financial security through home ownership. The initial focus area is centered around St. Mary’s High School in the Carondelet and Dutchtown neighborhoods of south
St. Louis city.

Several homes are being rehabbed and sold to low and moderate-income homebuyers who have been pre-qualified, have participated in home buying education programs and are engaged with a mentor.

What organizations created the program?
St. Joseph Housing Initiative was initially created through a collaboration between Archbishop Robert Carlson, the Incarnate Word Foundation, St. Mary’s High School and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

How are the CSJs involved?
The province has partially funded the program, and I have been a part of the organization since its founding in 2018.

How is it a collaborative project?
It’s a grassroots effort, working with a variety of local churches and neighborhood organizations. Five local parishes are actively engaged to identify homebuyers and create the “First Neighbor” mentoring program. It is also collaborating with other local non-profits to provide credit counseling, homebuyer education and construction.

Volunteer support is integral to the program’s success and opportunities are being created. St. Mary’s High School student volunteers are valuable partners, as well as Fontbonne University, who will be providing volunteers for their annual day of service.

Where does the funding come from?
This project will be funded entirely by philanthropic dollars and donations from individuals. Grant opportunities are being identified and a grant writer will be engaged as well.

What are some of the program’s recent successes?
The initiative has been greeted with great enthusiasm by the community as evidenced by our first successful fundraiser, which will become an annual event.

A home was purchased in January with renovations and construction by volunteers to follow. The home will be ready for purchase by a qualified family in June.

What are some of the next steps and goals?
The goal is to purchase an additional three to five houses in 2019 as well as to further develop the First Neighbor program.

The long-term vision is to expand the geographic footprint beyond South City in order to preserve the neighborhoods of St. Louis and reinvigorate them into diverse, sustainable neighborhoods where low and moderate-income families can build stability.