ARCADIA, Fla.- An empty field has transformed into a vibrant community in Arcadia. Rows of homes are opening the doors to affordable housing for local farm workers. Only WINK News is showing you how a state-wide effort has paid off.
The community is called Casa San Juan Bosco. This is a project that took 8 years to become a reality. 53 homes are spread across the property, along with a computer room, playground, and community center.
When WINK-TV visited the area in October 2011, it was just a field, and the houses were simply sketches on paper. Today more than 100 people gathered from across the state for the official blessing of the property. It's owned and operated by the Diocese of Venice, through Catholic Charities.
"We really wanted this project, not only to allow them to live with dignity in a house that any of us would like but also to live within a community," said Peter Routsis-Arroyo, Catholic Charities CEO.
The need for houses for Arcadia's farm workers came to a head after Hurricane Charley devastated the area in 2004. Many of the workers, we're told, lived in dilapidated conditions. That's when people like Sister Cathy Buster took it upon herself to rally the state and secure grants. "It blows you away. It's very overwhelming! And very gratifying. Everyone has been marvelously cooperative!" Buster said.
The houses are energy efficient and can withstand hurricane force winds. The project cost almost ten million dollars. Some of it is paid for with grants from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. It also came from community donations.
"Parishioners were very generous in donating almost the entire amount in building the community center," said Rev. Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.
The first family is expected to move in by Friday.