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Villas senior living complex gets new look

By Jim Myers
March 6th, 2008
The Colorado Catholic Herald (www.ColoradoCatholicHerald.com)

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Colorado Catholic Herald) - More than 100 people attended a rededication of The Villas in Southgate Jan. 31, and Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan blessed buildings in the complex during the rededication ceremony.

"We are proud to continue the legacy of our founders," said Bob Sallee, president of The Catholic Housing Corporation of Colorado Springs (CHCCS) that operates The Villas. "They have set a standard which we have strived to maintain, by creating quality housing which respects the dignity of our residents and supports their independent living with aging in place."

Villa San Jose and Villa Santa Maria, incorporated as separate nonprofit facilities, are projects of CHCCS, a nonprofit organization that was formed out of Archdiocesan Housing in Denver. The Villas are open to very low-income, single seniors at least 62 years of age or married couples where at least one resident is 62. The facilities are also available to adults at least 18 years of age who are handicapped. According to Sallee, seniors whose household income is 30-50 percent of the area median income qualify as "very low income." Both living facilities operate to allow able seniors to live independently.

Villa San Jose opened in 1986 to house low-income seniors and has 50 apartments. Villa Santa Maria, also with 50 apartments, opened in 1990. Retired Colorado Springs Bishop Richard Hanifen was instrumental in The Villas’ creation, as he was charged in 1983 by former Denver Auxiliary Bishop George Evans with the task of finding an affordable housing solution for the elderly when Bishop Hanifen was tabbed to head the yet-to-be-created Diocese of Colorado Springs.

"Bishop Evans was dedicated to our poor, especially when it came to housing people," said Bishop Hanifen. "This whole thing started before we even became a diocese."

Bishop Hanifen told the gathered crowd that if he was going to head the housing project, he was going to need help. He specifically sought out Claudia-Deats Rogers, who at the time was a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration based at Mount St. Francis in Colorado Springs.

"When Bishop Hanifen asked me to assist him and the new diocese in building affordable housing for seniors, I innocently agreed. Little did I know what this would entail," said Deats-Rogers, telling a story of imagining that what was then a lot filled with baseball fields would one day become housing for the elderly. "Building Villa San Jose involved jumping through so many hoops, some of which I am sure were flaming. But with the assistance of many people . . . Villa San Jose became a reality."

No place like home

Mary Schaffer, 94, has been a resident in the same apartment since Villa San Jose opened. She said she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

"I like the security; I like the fact that this is my home. I can come and go as I please," she told The Colorado Catholic Herald. "I know when I come home, I have a safe place to come home to. I wouldn’t think of moving anyplace else."

Lena Whitaker, also an original Villa San Jose resident who has remained two decades at her apartment, said there have been many changes at the facilities since she moved in, including renovations that began in 2006 and entailed the installation of energy efficient windows and air conditioners as well as new refrigerators and remodeled common areas.

"This place is 100 percent better since the renovation. The yards are beautiful," said Whitaker, who at 99 is the second-oldest resident of The Villas. "This is a wonderful place to be in. I’ve never had any trouble."

Sallee, who is also a freelance writer for the Herald, told the crowd at the rededication that The Villas earned a score of "99.5 a" out of 100 on its annual physical inspection summary report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The "A" rating designates that there are no health and safety deficiencies at The Villas, according to Sallee.

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