By Eric Heinz
The tenants of the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Mullen Home in West Highland will have to leave by Oct. 31, after the organization announced it is closing the facility.
Father Mark Cregan, a representative for Little Sisters, told The Denver North Star that the elderly living facility is closing because the convent doesn’t have enough staff nationwide and it has been closing facilities throughout the last decade.
Cregan has facilitated several of the closures of Little Sisters homes in other states.
“Sometimes the residents are taken care of by sisters who are older than they are,” Cregan said.
On Aug. 3, Little Sisters gave notice to the residents of the Mullen Home that it would be closing the facility and they would need to be out by the end of October, but Little Sisters said it has provided residents with alternative and similar living arrangements.
“We’re following the process that the state mandates for closing of a nursing facility,” Cregan said, adding about a third of the 40 residents living there have already sought other living arrangements.
“The caseworkers facilitate the discharge of basically every person,” Cregan said. “Others will go to another Little Sisters of the Poor home or they’ll move them to a facility. Obviously if they live in Denver, they want to stay there.”
The nearest Little Sisters home to Denver is in Gallup, New Mexico, he said. Cregan said many of the families have been very cooperative, while others are “very upset” because they don’t want to leave.
“And the sisters don’t want to leave,” he said. “They’ve been there 105 years, and it’s not like they’re just starting and running out.”
Sister Sarah Skelton, the assistant superior of Mullen Home, also said the Little Sisters will support the residents during the transition.
“After being in this home for over 100 years, it is very hard for us Little Sisters to imagine that we will not be serving here in the future,” she said. “And we recognize how difficult it is for the residents and their families to know that they will have to move from this home. But we will work with you to find the best option for you moving forward. We will take this next step in our journey together.”
Cregan said the Mullen Home has three levels of residency that consist of nursing care and independent living apartments, and it also had assisted living care but it has since relinquished that license. The building and the land are not being sold, however.
The deed will revert to the Archdiocese of Denver, which is deliberating what to do with the property. Cregan said the Archbishop has told him he wants to use the property “for a mission purpose, but he has to figure it out,” and he added it would unlikely be a nursing home again.
“While we are still in the process of determining the next steps for the property, I wish to assure the Little Sisters that their legacy of humble service will be honored and to assure the Mullen family that their gift will continue to support the church’s mission within northern Colorado,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said in a prepared statement dated Aug. 3.
“The Archdiocese will utilize its resources to support the Little Sisters in their efforts to help the local community, including the Mullen Home’s residents, families, and staff, make this transition.” David Uebbing, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver, told The Denver North Star that the religious organization has set up a committee to determine what to do with the property.
The committee includes people with real estate experience, but he said he does not think there are plans to sell the building.
“Really right now, we’re at the stage of that committee vetting different options and it’s in brainstorming mode and we’re not anywhere near deciding what to do with it,” Uebbing said.
According to the Denver Assessor’s Office, the property at 3629 W. 29th Ave. is about 8.2 acres with an actual value of more than $26.8 million.
According to the Denver branch website, Little Sisters of the Poor has operated since 1917 when the first nuns arrived from France to help elderly poor. John K. Mullen and his wife, Catherine, financed the purchase of the land and the construction of a building to house elderly people, and it received its first resident in 1918.
In 1975, new wings were added to the original building to provide different levels of care, and in 1980, part of the original building was renovated to create apartments.