Vacant building converted into housing opens for Worcester families

WORCESTER, Mass. — Over 30 people staying in a shelter are moving into an old convent in Worcester that Catholic Charities converted into housing for those who’ve battled homelessness.

Recently, Catholic Charities of Worcester County purchased St. Stephens Convent, a 95-year-old former convent from the archdiocese a year ago and had been working to get it up to code. The current shelter and offices on Granite Street was too small and had fallen into disrepair. On Thursday morning, movers began pushing dollies full of boxes into the new space.

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Families hoped to be able to move in by Thanksgiving, but there were delays. Finally, Jose Riveras and his family got a glimpse of their new room.

“This one is big. It’s way bigger than the one we had over there,” he said.

They’re elated to finally upgrade.

“It looks way cleaner, comfortable. It’s something beautiful,” said Riveras.

He’s working and trying to find an apartment but rising rent in Worcester makes that a challenge for him, "The cheapest I’ve seen is $1,400 - $1,500.”

Right now, there are 12 families staying with Catholic Charities in Worcester, but with the new building and additional space, they’ll be able to have up to 17.

“My heart skipped a beat actually when they saw their space and they were excited,” said Maydee Morales, who works directly with families served by Catholic Charities.

The shelter will have classrooms for English learners and career help, as well as more bathrooms and cooking space, just in time for Christmas.

The convent, vacant for years, has a long history, including a stay in the 70s by Mother Teresa, according to managers.