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January 2, 2024, Seattle, Washington – Sister Judy Byron, OP, long-time Board member, was the first recipient of the Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW) Founding Communities Award presented during the organization’s Gala, Power of Home, held in Seattle.

The gala raised nearly $400,000 to support its Mercy Scholars Program to expand education to families in the affordable housing properties in the Seattle area. The event included a panel of people impacted by MHNW’s programs, including a recent college graduate who had lived in an MHNW home since age 2.

Recently, Sister Judy explained in an interview, MHNW had been “very cognizant” of the five local communities of Sisters who founded the organization in the 1990s: the Edmonds Dominican Sisters (who merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2003), the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Sisters of Providence, the Tacoma Dominican Sisters, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

Mercy Housing Northwest “decided to give annually a founder’s award to someone or to a group that’s been involved with it,” Sister Judy explained. “They decided to begin with me. I was honored and humbled.” Besides serving on the board, Sister Judy has helped facilitate grants to the organization. The grants include the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Resilient Communities Initiative, which focuses on at-home, after-school programs for school-age children living in the housing units.

In her brief acceptance speech, Sister Judy said, she spoke of the history of MHNW. “The five communities, when we looked at the needs of our day in the early 1990s, were concerned about the families that were homeless, so we decided to develop affordable housing for families with small children. That was very ambitious for communities whose main ministries were healthcare and education.”

The Sisters in the five communities looked for organizations already involved in affordable housing and discovered Mercy Housing, Inc., founded in 1982 by Sister Timothy O’Roark, a Sister of Mercy of Omaha. “We affiliated with them and became one of their centers.” The other centers are Mercy Housing California, Lakefront, Mountain Plains, and Southeast.

In its 32 years, MHNW has established 55 housing properties throughout Washington and Idaho, providing homes for 5,000 families. However, the efforts of MHNW go beyond affordable housing. “We aren’t just giving people an apartment to live in,” Sister Judy said. “We’re giving them a home and helping them build a community where they can thrive.”

MHNW offers optional residential services to families who want to participate in them: onsite educational programs and after-school programs for children, financial literacy programs, healthy food and exercise programs, job training, and help with citizenship and English language skills for immigrants.

The 32 years of MHNW affordable housing and resident services have produced stories of thousands of positively affected people. Sister Judy said one of her favorite stories is of a young woman who left a domestic violence shelter with her two children. She attended classes at a junior college and had a part-time job. “She said how important the after-school program was to her,” Sister Judy recalled. “When she got home, she knew that the kids had done their homework and had had a snack. She could focus on fixing dinner.” The woman eventually graduated, got a job, and moved out of the property – and then served as a member of the MHNW Board.

The work of MHNW has affected not only the families living in the housing community, but also people involved in its ministry. “Over the years, the people we’ve been able to attract to work with us have made it the success it is,” Sister Judy said. “The people who work with us share the mission as much as we do. They are really committed.” Many groups and individuals deserve the award, she said. “I’m happy to be the beginning, but there are many who will follow me.”

October 12, 2022, Seattle, Washington – Mercy Housing Northwest, based in Seattle, is celebrating 30 years of making a difference in the lives of individuals and families by offering them access to affordable housing.

Sister Judy Byron, OP

Mercy Housing Northwest began in 1990 with a meeting of 80 Sisters who wanted to address the issue of homelessness – especially when they learned that nearly a third of the people in the area who were homeless were children. The Edmonds Dominican Sisters – who merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2003 – were among four of the original founding communities in the Seattle area who started the organization that became Mercy Housing Northwest.

“To me, the best part is the kids,” Sister Judy Byron, OP, told The Northwest Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Seattle. “If we could give kids a stable home, they could have a good life.” 

Most of the housing properties operated by Mercy Housing Northwest give additional help to families through services such as housing and financial stability, health and wellness, out-of-school programming for the children, and community involvement – which are “the anchors for the folks [who] live there,” Sister Judy said.

Read the entire article by Brenda Sexton in The Northwest Catholic


Feature photo: An architect’s rendering of Cedar Crossing, a 254-apartment housing development through a partnership between Bellwether Housing and Mercy Housing Northwest. Photo Courtesy of Mercy Housing Northwest



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