In January 1982, Brett and Lisa Vanderlinden put a $1,000 down-payment on a house at 1027 5th Avenue SE. With the help and dedication of several others, they would soon open what we know today as Catholic Worker House (CWH). Through transitions over the years, we now serve single women and married couples with or without children. We serve breakfast and warm dinner daily. One of Lisa Vanderlinden’s favorite quotes came from St. Theresa of Avila: “Life is but a night spent in an uncomfortable inn, crowded together with other wayfarers.” This is still very true today.
The name, St. John of the Cross Catholic Worker House, was chosen because St. John of the Cross lived a life of poverty and imprisonment. After his escape from prison, he dedicated his life to tending to the many needs of the homeless and poor around him. Today at CWH we continue to reach out to those who need us.
The opening of the Catholic Worker House was a step in the right direction for our community. Lisa Vanderlinden said, “We are learning a very important lesson. The Catholic Worker House is much more than a house. It is a Christian community dedicated to helping the poor. Even though we had a house and furniture, without people willing to live in the house as staff, a Catholic Worker House would not exist. The driving force of the Catholic must be from the inside, reaching outward…”
In 2009 Larissa Ruffin took over as House Manager. Since her arrival we have doubled the number of people we serve. We were serving around 100 people per year. In 2017, we served 292 individuals and provided approximately 7,000 nights of shelter! We added bunk beds to each of the five bedrooms. A remodel in 2016 allowed us extra space to add two additional full size beds, opening the space for even more married couples to have the opportunity to have a fresh start.
In August 2017, we held our 2nd Annual Fundraiser! It was a great success!
Most recently, we’ve been able to accommodate other shelters who were evacuated during the flood in September of 2016. We responded to the local emergency and had a large response to our requests on social media to provide meals, snacks, water and drinks from many donors. We anticipated five displaced residents, but ended up with two adults and eight children and happily accommodated them in the only space we had with air mattresses in the living room, dining room and office.