In the late 1980’s, the Sisters of Charity began to sponsor the development of supportive, affordable housing for people in need. The corporate structure has evolved over time to include the parent organization, The Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation (SCHDC), which is responsible for oversight of residences organized regionally in Staten Island, Manhattan and Rockland County.
Beginning in Staten Island…
By the early 1980’s, the Sisters of Charity of New York had a significant presence in healthcare on Staten Island. The Sisters recognized the need to provide for direction of this growing system, which included two hospitals and a hospice program, and a developing nursing home and homecare program. In 1984, the Sisters consolidated their expanding health activities by forming the Sisters of Charity Healthcare System (SCHCS).
Alongside this strategic planning process came growing recognition of the increasing health needs of Staten Island’s elderly residents. Economics drove many of them to have continued health issues, and many were spending what little income they had on housing and not on prescribed drugs or proper nutrition. Initially, the Sisters planned to provide housing tied to the health care resources of the Sisters of Charity hospitals. This idea did not gain traction as seniors expressed reluctance to change their existing healthcare providers, but the need for affordable housing remained.
In response to this need, the first effort toward creating senior housing was a collaborative effort with the Olivet Presbyterian Church, which had long envisioned a senior housing project on a parcel of land owned by the parish. This led to the opening of Joseph House, an affordable residence for seniors, in 1986. Oversight of Joseph House was organized under the Sister’s newly formed healthcare umbrella, the Sisters of Charity Healthcare System. In 1996, a second affordable residence for seniors, St. Vincent’s Manor was opened on Staten Island. St. Vincent’s Manor was also organized under the Sisters of Charity Healthcare System.
And meanwhile in Manhattan…
As affordable housing for seniors was beginning on Staten Island, the Sisters of Charity of New York began participating in the development of housing for the formerly homeless in Manhattan. Fox House, a Tier II shelter, was founded by Sr. Florence Speth in 1989 under the auspices of the New York Archdiocese. In 2006, Fox House became a membership corporation and thus, an officially sponsored ministry of the congregation.
Two more apartment buildings for formerly homeless families were opened in Manhattan in the 1990’s: Seton House and Casa Cecilia. Sr. Claire Regan managed Seton House in until 1997 when management functions were contracted to the Archdiocese’s Office of Housing Programs. By the early 2000’s the Elizabeth Seton and Casa Cecilia boards decided to transfer the management contracts for both sites to West End Intergenerational, a Manhattan homeless services provider on the Upper West Side.
And back to Staten Island and Rockland…
In the late 1990s, as plans to further develop affordable senior housing on Staten Island progressed, it seemed prudent to streamline the corporate structure so that individual housing entities developed going forward would report to a parent housing corporation as opposed to the Sisters of Charity Healthcare System. This led in 1998 to the creation of the Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation (SCHDC), with a mix of laity and religious as board members. Eric Feldmann became founding Executive Director.
In 2000, during the merger of the Sisters of Charity Health Care System, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center of New York and the Catholic Medical Centers of Brooklyn and Queens, the congregation elected not to include the housing programs in the new health care entity, for several reasons. Already-existing affordable housing (Fox House, Seton House and Casa Cecilia in Manhattan) would blend well with the housing on Staten Island. Housing did not relate directly to the core mission of the new health care entity. Large entities tend not to be good at operating small entities effectively; the smaller ones often get lost in the shuffle. And the assets and operating budgets for the housing program seemed miniscule compared to the budget for the merged healthcare system. Eric Feldmann was asked to assist with the operational needs of the Manhattan housing programs, although Manhattan was not formalized into SCHDC’s corporate structure. St. Vincent’s Manor and Joseph House formally maintained their original corporate ties to Sisters of Charity Health Care System at this point.
Over the next 15 years, the SCHDC developed additional affordable housing programs for seniors and adults with mental disabilities:
1999: St. Elizabeth’s Manor (Staten Island)
2001: Sr. Elizabeth Boyle Manor (Staten Island)
2003: Seton Village (Rockland County)
2011: Lafayette Manor and Sr. Louise de Marillac Manor (Staten Island)
2013: Markham Gardens Manor (Staten Island)
2020: Vincent’s Village (Rockland County)
Sr. Donna Dodge succeeded Eric Feldmann as CEO of the SCHDC in 2013. At this point there were a total of eleven residences, each owned by a separate corporate entity reporting to different parent organizations and boards. Under the leadership of Sr. Donna, the eleven housing entities were organized under regional boards for Staten Island, Manhattan and Rockland County. Each Regional Board was further organized under the Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation. The SCHDC serves as the corporate member of each of the regional housing entities. The Executive Director and Board of the SCHDC is responsible for oversight of the existing housing entities and future development.
Matthew Janeczko succeeded Sr. Donna Dodge as CEO of the SCHDC in July of 2019. Matthew is currently overseeing development of Vincent’s Village in Rockland County, which will be the twelfth affordable housing complex to be organized under SCHDC.