Vacancies are rare, but the success of one of the home's residents will open room in the affordable housing rental in the New Year.
Volunteers Laura and Stephen Brown chose the name Casa Alma, meaning “house of nourishment or spirit”, because they hope these are the qualities residents learn living there.
“A lot of people don't think things can happen to them, but something can happen to you at the blink of an eye,” says Larry, a tenant at Casa Alma.
Without steady work after he was in a car crash, Larry and his 16-year-old daughter fell on tough times. But after moving around, he came to Casa Alma in Charlottesville.
“Casa Alma consists of three houses,” Laura Brown says. “One is a community house and two are houses of hospitality for families who need transitional housing or at risk of homelessness.”
Laura and Stephen Brown live in the community house on Nassau Street with their three daughters and oversee the transitional Catholic Worker Housing Program.
14 people have lived at Casa Alma since the house opened in 2009. Social service organizations and congregations refer people to Casa Alma.
“It's been a privilege to accompany families as they come here from a variety of circumstances and see them use this as leverage to something more stable,” Laura says.
Volunteers lent a hand to turn the lot into a sustainable farm to help feed Casa Alma's residents.
“We've had groups from the University Alpha Phi Omega Society, we’ve had CSM, Catholic Student Ministries program from St. Thomas,” Stephen says.
“Our hope is guests can use the time here to save funds for future housing,” Laura says.
Larry is looking forward to moving into a home built by Habitat for Humanity with his daughter this spring.
“All it takes is something small to take away everything that you have, but you have to have the drive to keep going,” Larry says. “You can't let anything to set you back.”
The Browns anticipate there will be room for two families later this spring and summer.
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