St. Martin of Tours Transitional Housing

Written on: May 15, 2020

The Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ) have been working with Asylum seekers in the Philadelphia area. Finding housing for these women and children while they await decisions from the courts has become more difficult as the numbers increase and delays in processing occur. Led by Sr. Eileen McNally, SSJ, a search for alternative housing began looking at possible sites.

The Congregations who expressed interest in helping with the project are: Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Society of the Holy Child Jesus, Sisters of the Redeemer and the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. The story of finding a location and current needs is below. We invite you to read on for ways you can help!

In the summer of 2018, the Sisters of St. Joseph, realized they had no housing for women and children in need of transitional housing while awaiting decisions around their status. They had established Broad Street for young men in need, but did not have any place for families. Sister Eileen McNally, SSJ started looking for available places.

St. Martin of Tours convent was empty that summer, so several representatives from different Congregations went over to check it out. It was in a good location and in fairly good condition. The parish administrator felt it was a good idea. Much of what was needed was already in place from a prior interest in turning the space into a retreat center. There were new beds and bedding and many of the needed kitchen items had been donated.

With agreement among the Congregations and the Parish to move forward, the process of determining zoning and occupancy requirements began. In April of 2019, Sr. Eileen McNally met with Ron Selzer, the President of the Broken Wing Foundation, who was interested in the project. Ron has a non-profit in Kensington, where he serves meals every day to those who come to his location. Ron’s work is well respected in Philadelphia so he is a valuable partner. A structural engineer inspected the building and reported it in good condition. L&I assured us that no zoning changes were necessary as long as the families stay more than one month.

When the new pastor was appointed he was brought up to speed on the project. Once it was clear that the parish would not be responsible for any of the expenses he okayed the project going forward. Ron then brought in his contractor associates who were willing to work below their normal rate on this charitable project.

In the meantime meetings were held with several of the religious congregations in the area who expressed interest in partnering with the SSJ’s to help with the house.

  • The cost of utilities for the convent is about $22,000 per year. Possible grants were sought to help cover this cost. Several grant requests were submitted to the congregations involved. To date we have received $10,000 for the construction. Others may still be coming.

Other sources of income to offset expenses

  • Sister Eileen McNally’s office will move to MOT and pay rent.
  • Each family will pay a rental amount (rents may be subsidized by other sources).
  • Catholic Social Services is interested in using space at MOT for a new program. Meetings will have to be set up to determine if this is feasible.     

The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, our Associates and Colleagues have taken on the remaining kitchen needs as our focus. If you would like to help, please email us here for the list of kitchen needs, and how to donate to this project. Thank you!


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