1980s – The CARITAS Shelter is Born
CARITAS began as an all-volunteer effort called “Winter Cots” in the early eighties as a response to a dramatic increase of people on the street and in need of shelter caused by a convergence of social issues, including the large scale discharge of mental health patients into the general community, the razing of low-rent downtown hotels, an increase in heroin and cocaine use, and a stuttering economy. Seeking guidance from Emergency Shelter, Inc., the faith community opened the doors of its downtown churches and synagogues in the evenings to offer shelter, cots, and blankets to those in need for several weeks at a time.
In 1987, this effort was formalized to incorporate CARITAS for Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter. While we no longer use this acronym to describe our work, we are grateful to this initial group of congregations who came together to make a difference.
The agency created a governing board and added paid staff to provide support for volunteers and overnight guests. Eventually, the breadth of congregations that desired to be involved spread well beyond the downtown area to include Richmond City and the surrounding counties’ outer limits. It became a year-round shelter that provided more than just shelter.
1990s – Case Management Services Fills Gaps
CARITAS created the Family Focus program in 1996 with the help of a donated building on the campus of St. Joseph’s Villa. This filled an alarming gap in the shelter system by becoming the only program in our community to shelter large families, families with fathers, and adolescent males. Congregational volunteers brought dinner in the evening to those staying in the program. In 1998, two downtown congregations agreed to provide a desperately needed day shelter space for these families – Grace & Holy Trinity during the week, and Centenary United Methodist Church on the weekends. Soon after, Centenary offered to house families during the day, seven days a week.
2000s – CARITAS Gets a Permanent Home
In August 2006, CARITAS moved into its new office building in Northside Richmond. Administrative offices and case management offices were now housed here.
2005 – The Healing Place Brings Hope to Richmond
The Healing Place was brought to Richmond in 2005 when the Richmond Task Force on Homelessness identified a major need. The Jenkins Foundation toured programs around the country and discovered a successful Healing Place program in Louisville, KY. The Jenkins Foundation board of directors chose this model because of its 70% or more success rate for clients after one year of completing the program. This figure rivals some of the best treatment centers in the country. In July 2012, The Healing Place became a program of CARITAS. Over the last 15 years, THP has served more than 9,500 men.
2008 – The Furniture Bank Makes A House a Home
In September 2008, CARITAS acquired the Furniture Bank operations from Embrace Richmond, founded by Wendy McCaig. A large leased warehouse in southside Richmond became the premier provider of free household goods and furnishings to individuals and families who are exiting homeless shelters and crisis-intervention programs. Embrace Richmond continues on as a separate entity and an important partner. Staffing for the Furniture Bank is provided through a partnership with The Healing Place. 784 families received items from CARITAS during the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year; this number includes 1,133 adults and 1,113 children.
2011 – CARITAS Launches Works Program
After witnessing challenges faced by men completing The Healing Place Program, CARITAS developed the Works program through a Neighborhood Builders grant from Bank of America. The program’s mission is to provide intensive and innovative career preparation and job placement services to individuals with major barriers to employment, empowering them to overcome their circumstances and forge pathways to lasting success. The program began in January 2011, and as of July 2019, 600 individuals have completed the curriculum. Within 30 days, graduates find regular or transitional employment.
2019 – CARITAS Begins Construction on the CARITAS Center
Opening in late 2020, the CARITAS Center will bring all the solutions for breaking the cycles of homelessness and substance use under one roof. We can’t wait to watch CARITAS transform another neighborhood and positively impact thousands of lives.
For a long time, we’ve known that our clients would reap the benefits if CARITAS’s programs were all under one roof. We’ve also known that women in Richmond need our services now more than ever. The new CARITAS Center will include the following elements:
- The Healing Place for Women – 160-bed peer-based recovery program.
- CARITAS Works – Expanded state-of-the-art classroom space.
- Furniture Bank – Warehouse space for Furniture Bank clients and volunteers.
- 47 Sober-Living Apartments – For program graduates and qualifying community members.
- Women’s Emergency Shelter — A permanent location, providing a safe haven during crisis and a bridge to stability.
- CARITAS Administrative Offices – All located efficiently under one roof.
- Leased Office Space – For community partners.