The Faces Of St. Catherine Residence

Lolita struggled with alcohol and substance use for many years. In 2016, she went through a messy divorce, after which she had difficulty finding stable housing for herself and her younger son. Her turning point came when her older son, then in his early twenties, had to take her to a rehabilitation center one night. She had to leave her younger son to live with his older brother while she recovered.

After five months, Lolita found St. Catherine’s. “My happiest experience was the day I received a key to my own room. It just made me feel like I’m on the road to success.” She learned about a program offering computer skills training, which led to a part-time job she loved. “I can see it not being just a job but a career for me.” With encouragement from her case manager, she also began working on her GED.

Eventually, Lolita graduated to a more independent home at Greenwich Park Apartments, Mercy Housing Lakefront’s affordable housing community for working families located in the East Side neighborhood of Milwaukee. Lolita was proud of the progress she’d made and says that “it’s the best apartment I ever had.”

Crystal a native Milwaukeean, found St. Catherine’s after being homeless for about two years.

“I’m blessed to live here because I’m not living on the street,” Crystal said this Spring.

At St. Catherine’s, Crystal has received support from an onsite Case Manager who she can “go and talk to about anything.” Crystal also works with a therapist, who introduced her to art therapy. Drawing has since become not only therapeutic, but also something she does for fun.

Outside of drawing, Crystal also regularly attends church, and she babysits for a friend. Crystal’s dream is to own a daycare. But first, she’s working to find a job with a job specialist she was connected to through St. Catherine’s. Once she has a job, she hopes to return to school.

Crystal recognizes how important finding St. Catherine’s was for her. It provided her with the foundation to plan for her future. “The staff here make sure you’re doing your job so you can move up to another level. I’ve got food in my refrigerator, I’ve got clothes on my back. I’m able to take a shower every day. I can sleep in my apartment and not worry about any harm coming my way.”

Tracey, a native of Milwaukee, has enjoyed many community events and programs since moving into St. Catherine’s. In 2019, she participated in cooking and nutrition classes taught by Rita, a member of the Friends of St. Catherine’s. During the classes, Tracey learned how to cook using healthier foods, including plant-based protein sources such as beans and nuts. She took home new recipes to try by herself too.

Tracey also appreciated the opportunity to share her experiences with other St. Catherine’s residents. “I really liked getting together with the other residents here.”

Since she finished the class in April 2019, Tracey has noticed the program’s impact on her life. “I feel more confident in the kitchen, [and] I’m more active. I feel like I have more energy.” Overall, the classes have improved Tracey’s mental and physical health: “I’m healthier and I feel less tired than before.”