Casa San Juan Bosco in Florida now a full community
It must be something to see, Sister Cathy Buster muscling around a 26-foot U-Haul truck. She would never be mistaken for a husky football player. But, if you know her or know anything about her, you can see her doing just that: muscling around a truck.
Sister Cathy is vice president of Catholic Charities Housing in the Diocese of Venice, Fla. She also is primary dreamer, and muscle, behind Casa San Juan Bosco, a new community in Arcadia, Fla., created specifically for migrant farm families. Arcadia is located in the poorest county in Florida.
Adding to the area’s challenges, it was devastated by Hurricane Charley in August of 2004. Many farm families lost everything they had as their possessions went blowing in the wind.
The Board of Directors of Catholic Charities Housing for the Diocese of Venice made a commitment to address the loss of housing. A healthy, sustainable, energy-efficient, attractive and affordable rental housing community was the desirable goal.
Largely due to Sister Cathy muscling through administrative red tape and bureaucracy, Casa San Juan Bosco is open, running and full. The community opened earlier this year and, now, all 53 units are full. There are three- and four-bedroom units, each designed to withstand up to 200 mph winds. All utilities are underground. Each home is equipped with Energy Star appliances. It is the largest “green community” for farm families in the state of Florida.
A fund-raising effort is under way to gain enough money to add a kitchen onto the Community Center so that an after-school hot meal can be offered to approximately 150 children who are living in the community.
Families also benefit from on-sight services such as day care, Head Start programs, health care, English as a Second Language training, immigration assistance, financial planning, computer lab, meeting hall and playground. Each home rents for approximately 30 percent of a family’s income.
Sister Cathy said the families leave behind broken-down mobile homes when they come to Casa San Juan Bosco. They often shared living space with other families in their former homes.
“Almost all of the families moved in with only the parent, clothing and their kids. I discovered they were sleeping on the floors and had no table or chairs to eat on. I checked around and found beds, dining sets and other things at a Re-Store and thrift shop,” Sister Cathy said.
“The families are so grateful and appreciate having the space and to be alone with just their immediate family for the first time! They love the green grass. They’ve never had grass before,” she added.
Oh, and about that U-Haul. “To date, I have driven 14 large U-Hauls and have delivered furniture to approximately 48 of the homes,” she noted.