USDA Farm Labor Housing Project, partnered with Catholic Charities offers affordable housing for essential farmworkers in Weld County

Two miles from downtown Greeley, hardworking neighbors’ plant, manufacture and grow food for residents across Colorado and surrounding states. Rising housing costs in Northern Colorado have greatly impacted residents in Greeley since the pandemic. The US Census recently named Weld County the fourth most unaffordable housing market in the nation. This trend has been affecting seasonal workers, whose wages fall short of qualifying for traditional housing, for quite some time. With this understanding, Catholic Charities Housing partnered with the USDA 25 years ago, doing what its best known for: supporting neighbors and transforming lives.

These housing projects are just two of the 34 Catholic Charities Housing sites across Colorado and Wyoming, providing secure, supportive and affordable housing complexes for several thousand individuals and families who cannot access appropriate housing at affordable prices.

The USDA Farm Labor Housing Project is a federally funded housing initiative designed to provide homes for agricultural workers. In Weld County, the project has been providing homes for agricultural workers since the first building, Milagro, was constructed in 1999. The second building, Plaza del Sol, comprised of little cottages, was built in 2004 and houses dozens of workers and their families.

Catholic Charities Housing provides safe, affordable units for both year-round and temporary farm workers, including those who travel from other states to work in agricultural sectors such as meatpacking plants, dairy farms, greenhouses, egg farms and in the fields.

“The workers we house are vital to the agricultural industry, and we understand the challenges they face, including fluctuating wages and the uncertainties of weather and external factors,” shared Maria Pena, site manager for Milagro and Plaza del Sol sites.

There is a school for the children who live in the Catholic Charities Housing buildings, making education accessible to the children whose caregivers work in agriculture during the days. The school is specifically for families living at Milagro and Plaza del Sol, adding another element of togetherness. Dozens of children attend the school seasonally.

“We are proud to offer this support and see first-hand the positive impact it has on their lives,” said Pena.

In this year alone, seven families have worked to build their credit scores and saved enough money to buy houses of their very own. Along with financial counseling that Catholic Charities Housing provides, they also work closely with programs like Habitat for Humanity, who help residents build homes in the area. For many families, this is their chance to be first-generation homeowners, giving a more stable path for generations to come.

“The transition from low-income housing to homeownership brings us immense joy and pride, as we believe in creating not just a place to live, but a true sense of home and community,” said Pena. “I had a really emotional moment with a resident recently, who after receiving guidance from Habitat for Humanity about building a house, came by my office with joyful tears. She had achieved her goal of owning a house and even picked out paint colors for a house for her and her children.

It is moments like these that reinforce our commitment to providing more than just housing; we are invested in creating opportunities for individuals and families to build brighter futures.

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