Homelessness to Hope: Marian Plaza Resident Inspires High Schoolers

Phil was born and raised in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood in an upper middle-class family, just a few blocks away from where he lives now. His family’s affluence masked a hidden secret: his father was abusive, and Phil decided at an early age that not having a roof was better than having a tumultuous one.

“I left my family’s house when I was a very young man and many of those early decisions led me to where I am today.”

In an emotional retelling of his life story to the students of St. John Paul the Great High School, Phil shared stories of his days living under the same roof of his abusive father and his desire for early independence. He also shared how Catholic Charities Housing’s Marion Plaza has made a huge difference in his life today.

Phil was at the new high school as part of a program that invites people from the community to share their stories with students. The high school’s connection to Marian Plaza is a deep one. Over the past few months, students have volunteered their time at the affordable housing property, not far from the new Catholic High School. They sang Christmas carols to residents during the holidays, volunteered to deep clean the building and helped prepare for a variety of events. During that time, students have bonded with many of the residents. Phil is one of those residents and, after telling his life’s journey, it was clear why it’s important to give back to organizations like Marian Plaza and Catholic Charities. It was also a stark reminder of the understanding and support we all need to give to people experiencing homelessness.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God [that is] with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

For many years, Phil got by on $500 a month by working and staying at the Royal Palace Motel on Colfax. One day, the owners closed the motel. With his last paycheck in hand and an eviction notice on his door, Phil knew the inevitable was just around the corner. He no longer had a home and moved from inside the building on Colfax to outside on the street.

“I worked for $12 an hour most of my life. I grew up in Park Hill but could never afford to live in Park Hill. I have been priced out of everywhere I have ever lived. Denver has become so hard to live for people with incomes like mine.”

As Phil continued his story, the students sat in rapt attention.

“I tried getting an apartment a few times. To so many people, I didn’t look good on paper. I had saved up enough money from the motel, but it wasn’t appealing to the market at the time. I went to a senior support center in Denver which told me about Marian Plaza. Finally, I found a place that would give me a chance.”

Through the assistance of Catholic Charities Housing, he found a path towards stability and self-sufficiency close to his childhood home. His income-driven apartment represents a newfound sense of dignity.

“Phil is one of our biggest volunteers. He helps cook and clean for the other residents and makes sure to lend a hand to anyone who needs extra help,” shared Daniel Gosbeth, site supervisor at Catholic Charities Housing.

Phil’s presence resonated deeply with the students and faculty alike. His raw honesty and resilience left a mark on all who listened. He embodies the spirit of so many who experience homelessness in Colorado, and the triumphs of those who realize dreams and find new opportunities when they find homes at Catholic Charities Housing.

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