Older Tenants Face Displacement in Catholic-Owned Rooming House in Boston

The entrance to Our Lady’s Guild House in Boston’s Kenmore Square. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Residents of a Boston rooming house run by an order of Catholic nuns earned a short-term victory last week when the owners agreed to suspend eviction proceedings against the few older women left in the building, pending a state inquiry into allegations of age discrimination.

For more than 60 years, the Our Lady’s Guild House in Boston’s Kenmore Square, owned by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, based in New Britain, Conn., has offered affordable transitional housing for low-income, elderly women who are not married.

But over the past seven years, tenants allege, the owners have hiked rents and evicted dozens of long-term older residents to make way for younger tenants and to free units up for Airbnb listings.

Colleen Fitzpatrick. Photo courtesy
of Fenway CDC

“It isn’t right for an order of nuns whose mission is to look out for the poor and live a life of service to be turning a blind eye to the fact that evictions are happening on their property like this,” said Colleen Fitzpatrick, a community organizer with the nonprofit Fenway Community Development Corp., which helped residents file their complaint with the state. “They’re not above the laws of God or man.”

No members of the order live at the Guild House, which was given to the nuns by the Archdiocese of Boston in the 1950s to continue their work sheltering vulnerable women. At community meetings, some local advocates have suggested organizing phone campaigns to call the nuns or even driving to Connecticut and confronting them about the displacement.

Fitzpatrick said local Catholic churches, including leaders at the Boston Archdiocese, have reached out to show their support for the tenants but have been unsuccessful in reaching the nuns to urge them to find a resolution.

Neither the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception nor the Our Lady’s Guild House responded to Religion News Service’s repeated requests for comment.

When the Guild House was founded in 1947, its stated mission was to “provide safe and affordable housing for single women, working women, retired women or students.” Residents were often allowed to stay for decades.

Now, the building advertises itself as “a short-term residence” for women who work, intern or study in Boston. Its website notes the plethora of schools, cafes and bars in the area. And until last summer, the website also explicitly stated that the building was only open to women “between the ages of 18 and 50 years old.”

That wording spurred a complaint filed by Greater Boston Legal Services on behalf of tenants last summer, and is the basis for the present case.

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Source: Religion News Service