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Shelter, parishes repairing flood damage


DELUGE: St. John of the Cross School shared this image of its flooded campus on its Facebook page Jan. 24. Heavy rains two days earlier forced the school to evacuate. The entire school has temporarily relocated to the campus of St. Michael Academy until its own campus is restored. (Credit: Courtesy St. John of the Cross School)

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SAN DIEGO — Catholic institutions were not spared from the destructive effects of recent record rainfall in Southern California.

Rachel’s Promise flooded Jan. 22. It’s a 40-bed shelter for homeless women in downtown San Diego operated by Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego. Its residents were evacuated to Rachel’s Women’s Center, a Catholic Charities-run day center across the street.

Evacuation was also necessary at St. John of the Cross School in Lemon Grove. The school transitioned to distance-learning for the week of Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 and, the following week, resumed in-person classes on the campus of St. Michael Academy, which closed three years ago.

Other examples of storm-related damage include: the church and hall at St. John of the Cross Parish; classrooms and hallways at St. Rita School; school classrooms, the office building and the adoration chapel at Sacred Heart Parish, Coronado; the parish office at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish; the church building at St. Didacus Parish; the hall in the church basement at Blessed Sacrament Parish; classrooms at St. Katherine Drexel Academy; classrooms and offices at Santa Sophia Parish; classrooms and the teacher’s lounge at St. Martin of Tours Academy in La Mesa; and the rectory at St. Therese Parish in Del Cerro.

Cardinal Robert W. McElroy tapped Catholic Charities to assist in the distribution of funds raised through a special collection for those affected by the rains. Donations can be made online at Half of the money from the collection will fund repairs to parish and school facilities that are not covered by insurance; the other half will be distributed by Catholic Charities to needy individuals and families in the region.

On Jan. 22, there had been 32 women residing at Rachel’s Promise, when heavy rains brought water through the building’s vents and led to flooding, said Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor, executive director of Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego.

Pajanor praised the staff at Rachel’s Promise for their quick response, which ensured that residents did not lose their few belongings.

He said that the agency received the necessary permits to move the women to the neighboring day center until Rachel’s Promise is repaired.

Because Rachel’s Promise is fully funded by the San Diego Housing Commission, he said that Catholic Charities is working with that organization to resolve the situation and also to secure additional resources for its residents.

Since Jan. 22, the original 32 evacuees have been joined by other women, bringing the current number of Rachel’s Promise residents to about 35.

“A day center is not the best place for people to sleep overnight, but there’s no other,” said Pajanor, who noted that other San Diego-area homeless shelters operated by other organizations also experienced flooding, with the result that “hundreds of people now don’t have that shelter that was previously existing.”

Rachel’s Women’s Center continues to function as a day center. Its usual clientele, who do not stay there overnight, still need access to its showers, restrooms and other amenities, which they must now share with displaced residents of Rachel’s Promise.

Pajanor inspected the damage at Rachel’s Promise on Jan. 23 and spoke to the women who had evacuated to Rachel’s Women’s Center.

“The women know that this is something that is out of our control. … They’re very understanding, and we truly appreciate that,” he said. “That being said, we are not taking that lightly.”

He said that they are determined not to “dilly-dally” and are doing the necessary repairs “at warp speed.”

The Diocese of San Diego asked its pastors to consider holding a second collection to assist storm victims. Donations can be made at

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