Thursday, June 28, 2018 - Updated: 8:57 am
Roberta Cocuzzi usually enjoys a spirited game of cards at Alverno Apartments in Millvale, but on a recent day she was too busy to play. “I’m off to pick up my great-niece at vacation Bible school,” she explained. “It’s time to get going!”
“I like everything about living here,” said Della Baker, who moved from Lawrenceville about three years ago. “My only regret is not coming sooner. I didn’t feel safe in my house after my husband passed.”
Roberta, Della and their neighbors are among 1,285 residents of 24 senior living facilities sponsored and built by Christian Housing Inc. The nonprofit ministry was founded by Sisters M. Coleman Conroy and Veronica Marie Phillips of the Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale, and Capuchin Father Paul Kuppe.
The first Christian Housing high-rise, St. Augustine Plaza, opened more than 40 years ago in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood to serve the elderly who were living above storefronts and in old houses with inadequate plumbing and heating.
Christian Housing residents must be at least 62 years of age and meet a lower-income level established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Residents pay about 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent and utilities.
Service coordinators help residents in many ways, finding low-cost prescription medications, scheduling home health care aides or nursing services, arranging medical appointments and transportation, and providing other support.
“We believe it is our God-given mission to care for the elderly by providing them with safe and affordable housing,” said Dan Barbusio, executive director of Christian Housing. “Our doors are open to all qualified residents regardless of their religion or background.”
“We try to build communities within these buildings so residents take ownership and have a sense of belonging,” Father Paul said. “I feel a great satisfaction to have been part of it.”
Most Christian Housing facilities are located in Allegheny County, where 18 percent of the population is age 65 or older, one of the oldest counties in the United States. Other buildings are in Greensburg, Indiana and Elk County.
“People in Christian Housing tend to live longer, more comfortable lives,” said Sister Eileen Magill, on-site manager of Alverno Apartments.
Board President Cynthia Garvin visited people in their homes in her role as a social worker and saw the need to help the frail elderly and disabled people.
“These are well-maintained, nice size apartments in a place where there is genuine care and concern for residents,” she said.
The card players at Alverno Apartments agree.
Lorene Bauer moved from Pittsburgh’s Brookline neighborhood to Alverno shortly after it opened in 1999. She still delivers Meals on Wheels at age 94.
Marie Stickle, who moved from Pittsburgh’s North Side about four years ago, couldn’t be happier.
“I love it here,” she said. “My children are glad I’m here. They know I’m safe.”
To learn more, visit www.christian-housing.org.