The Story of Paradise Housing

By Katie Mahon, Communications Manager


Sisters Pat Ginty, Maggie McDermott, and Cathy Howard
Sisters Pat Ginty, Maggie McDermott, and Cathy Howard

The most vulnerable populations in New York City, including individuals living with AIDS and HIV, are often overlooked and forgotten about in our society.

When the AIDS epidemic hit New York City in the 1980s, many people became sick and tragically died.

For Sr. Maggie McDermott, OP, a Sister of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, who has spent her entire ministry helping those in need, the epidemic propelled her to start Paradise Housing, a facility in the Bronx for individuals living with AIDS and HIV.

Sr. Maggie shared, “At that point and time, AIDS was big in the city, and people were dying of it. There was a need that we wanted to help address.”

1990 was when Paradise Housing first began as Sr. Maggie, along with Sr. Cathy Howard, OP, inquired about the property and were able to receive funds from New York City for 59 men and women living with AIDS to live in Paradise Housing.

After receiving the funds, Sr. Cathy became the Director of Paradise Housing and then “really set it up and got the program running.”

At that time, Sr. Cathy was also ministering in college education and had many of her students gain valuable experience in social work at Paradise Housing to help build up the program. One of her former students, Sebastian Douglas, is presently running the Paradise Housing program.

Along with Sisters Maggie and Cathy, Sr. Pat Ginty also ministered at Paradise Housing as a caseworker.

Presently, Paradise Housing is still running under the sponsorship of Tolentine Zeiser Community Life Center and provides individuals living with AIDS and HIV housing, psychological help, and medical help.

When reflecting on the impact of Paradise Housing, Sr. Maggie shared, “It’s a wonderful thing that people are getting help when they go there, and AIDS isn’t as prevalent as it once was.”