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“My Heart is Happy”

By Katie Camario

“My Heart is Happy”

Catholic Charities opens new affordable apartments in Tampa and residents are overjoyed.

Caption: Carrie Ann Edwards, is next to Bishop Gregory Parkes, as she cuts the ribbon for the opening of Mercy Oaks Apartments in Tampa on September 15, 2022. (photo credit/Katie Camario)

September 29, 2002 | It was a day full of smiles and optimism for twenty-one-year-old Carrie Ann Edwards as she cut the ribbon for the grand opening and blessing of Mercy Oaks Apartments in Tampa. 

“God got me to a better place, where I wanted to be, instead of outside being homeless,” she said. 

Edwards was experiencing homelessness just two months ago. That changed when she found temporary refuge at Tampa Hope, a homeless shelter operated by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg that provides housing in tents built on wooden platforms. 

Now, Edwards and nineteen others are moving into Mercy Oaks Apartments, a brand new 20-Unit housing complex which will be rented to low-income working families and individuals at below-market rental rates. 

This initiative is part of Courageously Living the Gospel, the Diocesan vision launched in 2018 by Bishop Gregory Parkes, with the goal of creating 8-10 new locations of affordable housing in response to the ongoing local affordable housing crisis.

“We have been in crisis for some time. Wages are flat, unemployment and underemployment are high, while housing and rental costs continue to rise. The average person simply cannot afford it,” said Maggie Rogers, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. “Our goal is to help prevent as many families as possible from becoming homeless by creating more affordable housing.”

Mercy Oaks Apartments was funded with $1.9 million from Catholic Charities and $2.4 million from Hillsborough County.

It will provide a stable place for Edwards and others to call home. 

“We know that when somebody has an address that they can call their own, and a clean, safe, and affordable place to live, that gives a person dignity,” said Bishop Parkes during the blessing of the apartments. 

“Let us pray that the Lord enters this place and blesses these Mercy Oaks Apartments with His Holy Presence. May He always be here among you, the residents, nurturing you with charity, sharing in your joys, and comforting you and your sorrows,” Bishop Parkes added. 

For Edwards, her brand-new apartment represents a fresh start and a place where she can plan for her future and pursue the dream she had as a child of opening her own restaurant. 

“I’m here at a better place now,” she said through tears. “My heart is happy. Thank you.”

Learn how you can make a difference by donating or volunteering to Catholic Charities and the Courageously Living the Gospel Initiative by visiting: