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Women find a safe, comforting place to call home at the Center


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.”

Through the support of community members, volunteers, and partners, such a welcoming place has been made more possible for women like Desiree, a client of the 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 has a history of supporting those who face significant barriers to maintaining safe and stable housing through its Women’s Services programs.

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 the Transitional Housing Program 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.

Like many trauma survivors, home has not always been a safe place for Desiree. Someone 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.”

Community supporters help residents feel comfort at home 
Thanks to a recent upgrade to CMC’s housing spaces, women who find safety and support through Women’s Services can feel even more at home with items that bring comfort and hope. To spruce up the resident bedrooms and shared living spaces in the Center’s housing programs, Central Furniture Rescue and volunteers from Xavier High School moved in a variety of upgraded furnishings and decor – along with brand new mattresses and bedding generously donated by the Lions Club!

What inspired these efforts?
Executive Director of Central Furniture Rescue (CFR), Susan Johnston, says, “We live in an amazing community. Everyone wants to help, they just don’t know how. CFR becomes a conduit between people, their items and people who have a need. When touring the [transitional housing program for women] at Catherine McAuley, we saw a need to help warm up the rooms with headboards, rugs, pillows, wall art, and other items.”

When a new resident arrives, her bedroom is furnished with necessities like a bed, table and chairs, and a desk, along with bedding and a welcome basket stocked with personal care products. With a group of volunteers helping to move in furnishings, it was also a good time to replace mattresses and stock up on new bedding, and the Lions Club helped make it happen with a donation of $1,000! “The Cedar Rapids Lions are pleased to support the work of the Catherine MacCauley Center. We share a common goal in supporting the welfare of individuals in need,” said Mary Doyle.

Women are able to decorate their bedrooms to their own preference and comfort, and now, CMC can offer more of the elements that help make a space feel extra cozy! “We want help to make the room ‘home’ for the person staying there. We believe that having a safe comfortable home helps with mental and emotional health,” Susan explains.

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.” 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.”

At the Catherine McAuley Center, women find more than just housing, they find a safe place to call ‘home’ and the support of a community that inspires hope.