Casa Milagrosa offers homeless guests radical hospitality

This article was originally published in the spring issue of the Western Province’s quarterly newsletter, The Vincentian.

Guillermo Vidaurri calls them guests—the homeless patrons who visit Depaul USA’s Casa Milagrosa Day Center in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park area.

 “We don’t call them clients,” he said. “When they come here for breakfast, they are greeted by someone who takes their name and welcomes them. They are invited to take a seat. Their food is brought to them; they don’t have to grab a tray and go through a chow line.”

Guillermo, who goes by “Memo,” said the guests appreciate this and say they feel like they are in a restaurant. Tables seat four people each with placemats and a vase with flowers. After they have eaten, they can go to the lounge areas and relax, or they can use the computer lab to do research or apply for jobs. Volunteers are available to help them create and learn how to use email addresses, and they can even have mail delivered there.

A host of other services—art therapy, AA meetings, and more—are designed to address the challenges and stresses of homelessness and maybe even break the cycle.

Casa Milagrosa, which is Spanish for House of Miracles, has a couple different connections to the Vincentians. The project is co-sponsored by the Daughters of Charity, who own the warehouse that was converted for its use. The project was also a 2023-24 recipient of the Congregation of the Mission Western Province’s Walking with the Poor grant. Depaul USA is itself an organization rooted in the Vincentian charism and tradition.

Memo said on a given day the center will serve 100 to 120 guests. In April, it will have been open two years after a remodeling project at the warehouse that took nearly a year. When he came on board, he was program director at the center, and with it up and running under Associate Director and Head Case Manager Martha Hidalgo, he has shifted to exploring what else Depaul USA can do in LA. For instance, the Dax Program, named for the city where St. Vincent studied in France, was set up this year to address homelessness among college students and also provide them resources to succeed in school and apply for jobs.

Programs like these, Memo said, not only address the needs of the homeless but reduce the future homeless population, which currently stands at 72,000 in Los Angeles.

Memo says he lived in LA and worked in Catholic education with the Daughters of Charity before moving to Phoenix several years ago.

“Every time I came back to visit family, I saw the growth in homelessness and thought, ‘something has to be done,’” Memo said. “Then, I got a call about this job from one of the sisters I worked with in LA. She said they needed someone with Vincentian values to run the place. I realized I didn’t have to wonder what could be done. I was in a position to do something.”


Photo cutlines:

(top photo) Guillermo (Memo) Vidaurri presents a backpack to one of the guests at Casa Milagrosa in Los Angeles during a give-away event.

(bottom photo) The guests of Casa Milagrosa enjoy a Christmas meal.