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 with the incorporation of CARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter). The agency created a governing board and added paid staff in order 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 the outer limits of Richmond City and the surrounding counties and became a year-round shelter that provided more than just shelter.
1990s – The Family Focus Program 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 and filled an alarming gap in the shelter system by becoming the only shelter 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 beautiful new office building in Northside Richmond, where today it houses its administrative offices, case management offices, and its Family Focus daysite – a consolidation that has led to better communication, collaboration, and streamlining of services while at the same time meeting a critical need to provide a clean, safe place for young families during the day. The results of these dedicated workers are remarkable: at the conclusion of fiscal year 2015, 89% of its Family Focus clients successfully transitioned out of our emergency shelter program.
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 exist in Lousiville, KY. The Jenkins Foundation board of directors chose the model because of it’s 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.
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, and leased a large warehouse in southside Richmond to become the premiere 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 important partner. Staffing for the Furniture Bank is provided through a partnership with The Healing Place.
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 December 2015, 45 classes have finished the program with nearly 500 individuals completing the curriculum. Of those, 90% have found either regular or transitional employment.