Recently, Sister Camie Rasband, member of the Lake Mary Ward in the Flagstaff Arizona West Stake and Program Supervisor of Catholic Charities’ Juniper House in Flagstaff, sat down for an interview with The Catholic Sun – the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. With The Catholic Sun’s permission and encouragement, we present their interview here.
What does your job entail?
I am the housing supervisor, so I oversee all of our housing programs for all of the counties in northern Arizona. We have emergency shelters for families, re-entry housing for men and women, veterans’ housing in Prescott, rapid re-housing which is rental assistance with housing case management to service individuals and families who are homeless and also permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable in the community and for individuals who are homeless who also have some sort of disability. We’ve steadily grown every year and we’ve seen what the needs are and created some programs to help with that.
Re-entry housing programs came about because we go into the jail every month and work with the case managers. We saw men and women coming out with positive momentum if they have the programing. But if they don’t have a safe, stable place to live, they are vulnerable to fall back into whatever situation caused them to be incarcerated in the first place.
How has the Juniper House impacted the Flagstaff community?
The Juniper House gives our residents a chance to be a part of the community in a positive and meaningful way. They’re getting jobs; they’re giving back to their community. We’ve seen this amazing stewardship and mentorship of them taking care of each other. It’s amazing to get to work with women and learn their stories and walk that path with them. We see these women show up, do the work and not let these barriers that in the past would have put them back on the street or back into jail. They have the stability and the tools to not get completely derailed.
How does the Juniper House speak to evangelization and discipleship?
One of the things that has been amazing at the house has been the community support. The volunteers that come and teach life skills classes are the same ones in the jail doing ministry. They are the same people that are dropping off donations: clothing, hair products, food, books, magazines. Everything in this house is donated. It really speaks to having that mindset that Church is not something that you just do on Sunday, to really put that into practice, to give and to share. This house doesn’t have outside funding, so a lot of those things we wouldn’t be able to provide if it wasn’t for the goodness and kindness of people donating. It goes back to the parable of the Good Samaritan. We serve the most vulnerable in our communities.
Why is there a need for more places like the Juniper House?
One of the things that sets the Juniper House apart is that we really wanted to create a sober living environment that allowed people to deal with their whole health. For example, in other sober living environments people aren’t allowed to take medications that they may need for mental health. We want them to be able to do whatever that behavioral health provider designates is best for them. When you consider the amount of trauma and the stories that these women have lived through, just being able to have that support, to have somewhere to live, they need something to help them get to the next place. Especially as a community, these are our neighbors, our friends, family members, coworkers … sometimes I think people have this false idea of “us” and “them.” That’s not what it is; it’s really helping our community.
What does the Juniper House mean to you?
One of the really great things about this program is being able to have seen the need in the community and … to create this program around what we needed. Being able to witness their lives, their improvements, their trials, their triumphs, … to see them make sustained progress and improve their lives and their families’ lives. Being able to be a part of that is very inspiring.
For more information: Juniper House: (928) 774-9125 togethergoforth.org/catholic-charities