Dear Friends and Family of Catholic Charities:

We all now know what it’s like to live in fear, and how that fear leaves lasting trauma. Yet, many of us cannot begin to imagine the level of fear and trauma that a homeless woman battles alone. At Rachel’s Women’s Center in downtown San Diego, hundreds of women walk through the doors each day seeking shelter, safety, and support to start over. Did you know:

50% of these women report being physically assaulted while homeless. 35% report being sexually assaulted on the street. 75% report experiencing at least one sexual assault at some time in their lives. 80% report histories of intimate partner violence. 80% report having their personal items repeatedly stolen while unsheltered.

More jarring than the statistics are the stories. Michelle is a cancer survivor who is unable to work. She fears losing her disability benefit and, in turn, the housing that Catholic Charities helped her secure last year. The trauma from her time on the street haunts her at night, while health issues limit her mobility in the day. Michelle’s story is one of many that I hope you will read and watch on our website (Read Here, Watch Here). Catholic Charities has programs and services in place to keep women off the streets for the short term while working to house them for the long term. The challenge is that these facilities are operating at absolute capacity. Directly above Rachel’s Women’s Center, we have eight affordable studio apartments for women who are completing recovery programs and/or are newly employed. Every apartment is full.

Leah’s Residence is larger. It comprises 24 affordable permanent housing units for formerly homeless women who have special needs, with an on-site coordinator to assist them. Every apartment is full. In nearby Hillcrest, House of Rachel and Casa Maria provide safe, supportive, and sober shared living environments for low-income and formerly homeless adult women. Both facilities are also full. Rachel’s Night Shelter, across the street from Rachel’s Women’s Center, has 35 beds side by side in an open space. Every night, all 35 beds are occupied. In 2021, Rachel’s Women’s Center served 835 unique women, while the Night Shelter was only able to serve 138 unique women. The gap leaves hundreds of women on the street where they may be robbed, assaulted, or killed. We are working diligently, tirelessly—and, in seeing the need and volume, urgently—to expand our capacity. When I see the fear on Michelle’s face and hear the trauma in her voice even now as she sits with a roof over her head, I imagine what those women who remain on the street must be encountering.

Lan, a 91-year-old woman who lives in senior residential housing, said she was immensely fearful of COVID because she has breast cancer. But moreover, she felt deeply saddened that she wasn’t able to see and celebrate with her children during the holidays. The special sleepovers only a grandmother could hold were canceled along with the hugs and personal interactions. Donations help sustain our services, they are critical in sustaining our programs and services for the most vulnerable. Rachel’s Women’s Center has been operating in the same location for nearly 40 years. Catholic Charities has been providing help and creating hope for over 100 years. But our commitment is much deeper, and our vision is much larger than simply sustaining. We want to do more. We need to do more. This Easter, will you put your faith into action to help us do more? I pray that our good Lord blesses and protects you, your loved ones, our country, and our world.

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