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There’s Water on the Floor Again at Casa Juan Diego

A crane lifting the new air condition units onto the roof on Rose Street
Photo: Joachim Zwick


We celebrated our 40th anniversary a couple years ago. Some of our buildings should already have received a letter from the Queen, were they British, given their age. Our main building, constructed of steel and concrete due to prior fires, opened in 1987, so it is now 35 years old.

In Houston, the clay and mud we build on always moves. The sun bakes the ground. The rains soak them. Heavy trucks and the road construction shake the buildings as roads and drainage are removed and replaced. Things shift.

The City has been repaving Shepherd and Durham around us since last fall. This is expected to finish in the fall of 2022. We are hopeful. The contractors doing the work have been incredibly helpful to us, filling in sidewalks with asphalt so our wheelchair users can still get to us and doing what they can to minimize road closures (another week or two coming in September, we expect) in front of our buildings. We and our guests navigate around the bigger holes.

We want to provide a safe environment for our guests. This was true from the beginning even though the first building was poor and even ugly. When Mark Zwick was working with the contractors on the construction of the Rose Street building, some people commented, “Mark, Dorothy Day did not have air conditioning.” Mark responded with a smile, “Dorothy did not live in Houston.”

We want to continue providing services in a safe environment for years to come, including in the deadly Houston heat. We want to stop so many things from dripping inside. We had to check – was it the roof leaking, was it water coming through porous block walls, or was it the air conditioning pouring water onto hallways on the second floor? Thanks to the efforts and coordination of Joachim Zwick, the main building has received a new roof, new air conditioning and heat, new plumbing, and many small fixes in the last year or so. It still needs a lot of work done on the foundation to keep the cracks from getting even bigger. So does the Casa Juan Diego clinic. We might have to close the main building for a bit.

Most of our other buildings have recently had foundation repair and all the roofs and A/C are now in decent shape. We have been playing catch-up on years of maintenance during COVID, working around the many guests. Things are working better.

Last time we broke out the mops, the clinic A/C created a small flood in the patient rooms. The time before that it was a toilet broken from its mounts. This time, it is the dental equipment leaking. We had a specialist come to fix it.

We have another specialist coming to repair the stained glass in the front of the house from the gift of a stone. We have to fix our barbed wire, which is unfortunately necessary. We need to have some groundwater testing done. There is always a list.

We are grateful to the many people who help us with these projects, hidden away behind the main work of Casa Juan Diego. Your donations are making these many repairs possible.

Houston Catholic Worker, July-September 2022, Vol. XLII, No 3.