- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008

Catholic Charities broke ground Friday on an ambitious public-private housing project that will provide 178 high-quality apartments to low- and moderate-income families. Some of the apartments will be set aside for formerly homeless people emerging from transitional housing.

Ed Orzechowski, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, said he was pleased that in the midst of an economic and financial crisis, the charity was able to begin construction for the project, which is on the grounds of St. Martin of Tours Parish at 116 T St. NE.

“We’re considering this the miracle at St. Martins, because with all of the economic and financial challenges this city has endured, it’s truly a miracle what we were able to accomplish,” he said.

Of the 178 units, at least 50 will be reserved for formerly homeless people who are earning no more than 30 percent of Washington area’s median income, or about $20,000 a year. The rest will be available to families earning no more than 60 percent of the median income, or about $50,000 a year.

The project is scheduled to be completed by 2010.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Ward 5 D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., both Democrats, attended the ceremony along with Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl.

“It’s a real sign of vitality in these days and times to have low-income residents in this project. The passion for building affordable housing is high and we should celebrate meeting the high demands of D.C. residents,” said Mr. Fenty, who has made affordable housing a priority of his administration. His ambitious “Housing First” program placed about 400 homeless people into government subsidized housing units this year, with another 400 people scheduled to be moved sometime next year.

Mr. Thomas, who represents the area of the project, thanked the mayor and the rest of the surrounding community for supporting Catholic Charities in creating the project.

“Everyone in the community needs to understand that our responsibility as a community is to afford opportunity,” he said.

Archbishop Weurl related the construction of St. Martin’s apartments to the story of St. Martin himself, who cut his own military cloak in half to share it with a beggar.

“The one who had the means simply had to share those means, and isn’t that what we’re doing today?” he said.

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