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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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MARIA HOUSE. Part of the OPENING DOORS program in Dubuque, Maria House was located in the 130-year old former sister's convent of ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH. The idea of the site was suggested by Dubuque City Councilwoman Ann MICHALSKI in 1997. The core group were six Dubuque-area Catholic women religious congregations--SISTERS OF THE VISITATION OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY (SVM), SISTERS OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (PBVM), Sinsinawa Dominicans, SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (BVM), Dubuque Franciscans, and the Detroit Sisters of Mercy]]. (1)

Maria House offered transitional housing for women and children moving from homelessness to self-sufficiency and independent living. At its dedication, Curt Heidt, vice president of the Federal Loan Bank, said the project was one of the first faith-based housing developments to use the adaptive re-reuse of older structures, preservation of religious properties and addressing the needs of children now the fastest-growing population in public shelters. The facility opened on September 25, 2000. (2)

Maria house was able to accommodate twenty women and children for stays up to one year. The first floor offered a lounge with overstuffed chairs and a wide-screen television, a conference room and offices for the four permanent staff members. A large dining room, commercial kitchen, laundry room and small activity room were located in the basement. (3)

In the first two years in existence, Maria House served more than 120 women and children. That number by 2011 had grown to nearly 450. (4) Programs for the residents included parenting, budgeting, achieving further education an treating substance abuse or mental illness. (5) Residents were required to attend school, if school age, and incorporate skills they learned at Maria House into their lives while analyzing the issues that led to their homelessness. The goal of the program was to ensure the residents could maintain stable housing when they left. The average stay was 102 days. (6)

Maria House was supported by grants, donations, memorials, United Way and fund-raisers. (7) One of the most productive fundraisers for Maria House was the 'Attitude of Gratitude' dinner and auction. The first event, held in 2001, was attended by 180 people. By 2006 this had grown to 500 to support TERESA SHELTER for homeless women and children and Maria House's transitional housing for women and children. (8)

In 2017 in collaboration with STEEPLE SQUARE, Opening Doors officials announced that the former St. Mary's School was being converted into 12 two and three-bedroom apartments. Permanent supportive housing was being provided graduates of Maria House and Teresa Shelter in eight of the units. (9)



1. Nevans-Pederson, Mary. "Community Need Brings Convent Back to Life," Telegraph Herald, September 22, 2000, p. 3

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Hogstrom, Erik, "Doors to Open on Fundraising Effort," Telegraph Herald, July 7, 2011 p. 3

5. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, "Maria House Provides Stable Home," Telegraph Herald, March 18, 2004, p. 1

6. Hogstrom, Erik, "Fund-raiser to Stress Success of Maria House," Telegraph HeraldItalic text, November 11, 2002, p. 1

7. Nevans-Pederson, "Maria House Provides..."

8. Hogstrom, Erik, "Maria House Fundraiser Grows," Telegraph Herald, November 9, 2006, p. 1

9. "Opening Doors Announces Third Doorway of Hope," Telegraph Herald, May 30, 2017, p. 10