Bill Rogina—Office of HUD Section 202/811 Programs; Sister Lillian Murphy—CEO Mercy Housing; John Kauh—Wells Fargo; Doug Shoemaker—President Mercy Housing California; Matthew Haas—Merritt Community Capital; Mayor Kevin Hanley—City of Auburn; Linn Warren—CA Housing and Community Development; Sister Judith Frikker—President Sisters of Mercy West Midwest; Sister Susan McCarthy—Sisters of Mercy West Midwest
Oct. 1, 2012--Mercy Housing broke ground on a 60-unit senior community on the Mercy Auburn campus on a hot Sept. 27. Against the background of heavy equipment carving up the three-acre site, speakers were equally warm in their enthusiasm for the project designed to serve low income elderly six years in the making. Flutist Erik Olesen introduced the theme of the morning by playing an original piece, titled "Mercy."
Mercy Housing CEO Sister Lillian Murphy reflected on the difficulty of bringing funders, planners, government and sisters together. “Mercy Housing’s vision is to create a more humane world, alleviating poverty,” she said. “We do it by building housing for low and moderate income people. But you’ve got to have heart in this. You wouldn’t stay in [housing] if you didn’t. It’s too hard”
Doug Shoemaker, president of Mercy Housing California and host for the event, was enthusiastic about the overall success of Mercy Housing. “We’ve had a banner year, closing on 13 communities this year. But it is still a minor miracle every time it happens.”
The three story building, slated for completion in a year, will offer a community kitchen, computer lab, library and bocce ball court, all designed to promote community among the residents. The housing is designed for a corner of the Auburn campus that was home to cattle raised for consumption by the retreat center and convent years ago.
Sister Judith Frikker, president of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest, noted that in creating a master plan for the property in 2007, the sisters’ leadership wanted the property used in a sustainable, environmentally sound way. “The sisters did not want it for commercial use,” she said. “It must be used in accordance with our values. Our founder Catherine McAuley opened the House of Mercy in Dublin on Sept. 24, 1827. Catherine was firm. She wanted to use her inheritance to provide shelter and housing for women in need. May this effort create a place that elderly men and women find a home and security.”
Other speakers were Auburn Mayor Kevin Haley; Bill Rogina of the Office of Section 202/811 Programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Matthew Haas, Director of Investor Relations and Fund Management of Merritt Community Capital; John Kauh, Senior Vice President Wells Fargo Bank; Linn Warren, Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
Warren noted the challenges of building low income housing as Redevelopment funds have disappeared in California. The persistence of Mercy Housing is testament to the possible. “The Redevelopment Agency is done away with.” said Haas, “but the Community Reinvestment Act goes forward. There is hope.” He pledged the ongoing support of Merritt which has given financial support to six projects in the state since 1997.
Sister Susan McCarthy, administrator of the Auburn campus, blessed the grounds and ended with an anticipatory note “Let us be filled with hope and patience as we await the transformation of this muddy field to a place of beauty and security, a place for many to call home.” Doug Shoemaker made an impromptu presentation to Sister Judith: a payment for leasing the property for 99 years--one dollar.
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