June 7, 2024

Since 1996, Alexandria House (AH) in Los Angeles, California has provided safe and supportive housing for women and children who are in the process of moving from emergency shelters to economic stability and permanent housing.

Central to this ministry are the programs that support this dramatic change from shelter living to independent living in the context of community. AH reaches out to the broader neighborhood community by providing educational and enrichment opportunities for neighbors as well as residents. AH consciously and practically creates a cross-cultural environment that is anti-racist and promotes the values of mutuality, dignity and respect.

AH has a proven record of transitioning women and families. When families leave Alexandria House for secure permanent housing, they are economically stable. The staff continues to provide ongoing support to help them thrive and remain in their own homes, and 92% of the families remain in permanent housing.

Former resident Jamese Banks summarizes her experience this way: “As a child, I was aware of homelessness but did not experience it. Later in my life because of job complications, I became one of the unhoused women in Los Angeles. I found Alexandria House and my life turned around. Being among other residents, mothers and staff members pushed me into being my best self. We are resilient women.”

Through the years, three religious communities and many generous individuals donated to repair buildings and support programs, and several became a ministry of presence. The Immaculate Heart Community purchased the first house; Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Judy Vaughan is the director; and Holy Names Sisters Anna Keim and Susan Maloney provide ministry support in a variety of ways.

Alexandria House

Holy Names Sisters Susan Maloney and Anna Keim with Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Judy Vaughan.

Several years ago, Sister Anna created an annual “Homelessness Solidarity Retreat” that takes place during a weekend at Ramona Convent Secondary School. Each year, Sister Judy brings a woman who has experienced homelessness to share stories with the girls on the retreat. The students sleep overnight in cardboard boxes in the English courtyard. The next day, they serve meals at shelters, including Alexandria House.

Next door to the original AH is the Immaculate Heart Community residence. Many of these apartments house AH women as they transition to independent living. Sister Susan, whose office is in this building, has developed friendships with the women through conversation and listening, giving emotional and spiritual support as part of her ministry. Sister Susan also provides clothing and general help when needed.

Holy Names Sisters in Southern California provide support in many ways. For example, AH received a grant from the Province Pandemic Relief Fund to provide financial support to families experiencing hardship due to the Covid crisis, especially with food, hygiene items, emergency support and childcare. Through the initiative of Sisters Jo’Ann De Quattro and Jennie Lechtenberg, AH also received funds from the Province to support the purchase of an additional building.

Sisters see collaboration with Alexandria House as an extension of the SNJM ministry and commitment to women, children and immigrants.