Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation provides housing assistance and supportive services to persons who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Mercy works to empower its clients to become independent, so they may live and work with dignity and respect. Mercy seeks to end homelessness by advocating for changes in the social systems that perpetuate homelessness. Mercy welcomes and serves all in need in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy , who founded the organization in 1983.
WHAT WE DO
Mercy provides a continuum of care for homeless people and families to help them become self-supporting, contributing members of the community. Services are available for people with various disabilities including psychiatric and/or substance abuse problems, other special needs, and for offenders and defendants in the criminal justice system. We serve English-speaking and non-English speaking populations. We offer six unique service areas to address different aspects of homelessness. We promote healthy values and a reverence for life through the spirit of justice, compassion and service to others.
The Sisters of Mercy, founded in Dublin, Ireland, dedicate their lives to the service of the poor, the sick and the uneducated. They sought to fulfill that vow of service by responding to what had become a national housing crisis throughout the United States and in Connecticut.
In January1983, Sisters of Mercy, concerned with the plight of a growing number of homeless people and with the need for decent, affordable housing, came together to determine how to alleviate the human suffering they witnessed and to change the system to lessen the suffering. They decided to ask the entire Mercy Community to make housing and shelter for the poor and destitute a corporate ministry.
At the time, St. Elizabeth House at 118 Main St., Hartford, was operated by Center City Churches, an ecumenical group. It housed a residence, soup kitchen and day shelter on property owned by the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, who were trying to sell it. Center City Churches declined to buy the property. The Sisters of Mercy feared that if a developer bought it, the residents would have to move and most likely would become homeless again. With the lack of affordable units and the fact that many residents needed supportive services, the prospects of their finding other decent, appropriate, affordable places were grim.
The Sisters bought the property and formed a new corporation called Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. to seek out, initiate, advocate and support housing and shelter services as part of the ministry of the Sisters of Mercy of Connecticut. Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. was formally established in August 1983. Sisters closed on the property at 118 Main Street and 7 Charter Oak Place, Hartford, in September 1983. Center City Churches managed St. Elizabeth House until Nov. 1, 1983, when Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. appointed a director.
The Board of Trustees worked closely with the director of St. Elizabeth House and with the Sisters of Mercy to clarify the philosophy and the mission of the corporation, to assist with the transition in management, and to raise funds for immediate needs.
In January 1987, the first full-time executive director of Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. was appointed. Until this time, St. Elizabeth House had been synonymous with Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. Now the corporation was identified as a separate entity. St. Elizabeth House would be the first of many projects initiated and operated by Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp.
OVER 25 YEARS OF SERVICE
In 1983, the Sisters of Mercy of Connecticut, as a chapter, committed themselves to reaching out to the hungry and homeless of Hartford through their purchase of St. Elizabeth House, 118 Main St., Hartford. A private, non-profit entity, Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. (MHSC) was formed. Sister Dolores Crowley was appointed its first administrator and changed with developing a caring program with the mercy mission as its core. MHSC began its work through delivering four programs: Friendship Center Soup Kitchen (later called the Meals Program and today called the Friendship Center), Friendship Center Day shelter, a 24-bed emergency shelter (which no longer exists), and a 42-bed transitional living program. The emergency shelter and transitional living programs served single homeless men and women.
In 1986, After three years of diligent work, Sister Crowley left to assume responsibility for other ministries, leaving an established program with a reputation of caring and responsible ministry. Denis Ouellet was appointed the new administrator.
In 1987, the agency began the year with a new executive director, Lucy Callahan. A five-bed Community Respite Services Program for single men and women with psychiatric disabilities was opened at St. Elizabeth House. In the same year, Mercy also added the Bethany Program, a scattered-site permanent supportive housing program for single men and women with psychiatric disabilities. The program featured 30 units of housing, with rental assistance and intensive support services. The staff traveled to clients from their offices at St. Elizabeth House. All programs served the state’s Greater Hartford/Capitol Region No. 4.
In 1988, Mercy’s services first became truly regional when it opened its 70-bed Transitional Living Program in Middletown for adult, single, homeless men and women – on the campus of the Connecticut Valley Hospital. The catchment area for the program, called Shepherd Home, included state Region No. 2 – Greater Middletown and all of Middlesex County.
In 1990, Mercy opened Mercy House in Hartford, the first 24/7 secure facility in the state devoted to serve single homeless adults who were HIV+ or who had AIDS, plus a mental health and/or a substance abuse disability.
In 1992, the Mercy Family Center was opened at St. Elizabeth House – providing after- school and before-school activities for area children plus intensive casework services to homeless families.
In 1994, the Supportive Housing Services Program began providing scattered-site permanent housing with supportive services in the Greater Hartford area for 54 clients who had HIV/AIDS - many of whom also had chronic mental health and/or a substance abuse disability. Clients included single adults as well as families where the family provider is a client. Rental assistance and intensive supportive services are delivered to clients at their housing units.
In 1995, the Supportive Housing Services Program was expanded to cover the Greater Middletown area, including all of Middlesex County. The HIV/AIDS program also includes a short-term emergency housing program component which provides housing for seven to 10 adult men and women in the Greater Hartford and Greater Middletown areas for up to 60 days. Case management is either provided or arranged through other agencies.
In 1997, Mercy joined with three other agencies to provide scattered site permanent housing with supportive services to homeless adult individuals in the Greater Hartford region through Project Teach Mercy’s caseload is 20 clients – some of whom have chronic mental health and/or chemical dependence disabilities. Rental assistance and intensive supportive services are provided.
In 1998, MHSC combined efforts with three other agencies to provide scattered-site housing with supportive services to homeless families in Greater Hartford through the Family Supportive Housing Collaborative Program. Ten families housed in 10 units are involved in rental assistance and intensive support services.
In 1999, Sister Patricia McKeon was named executive director of the agency, following Lucy Callahan’s retirement. The administrative offices of the agency were moved from Columbus Boulevard to its present location at 211 Wethersfield Ave., Hartford.
In 2001, Mercy joined with four other agencies to deliver the PILOTS Permanent Supportive Housing Program serving the Greater Middletown area. This scattered-site supportive housing program serves homeless individuals and families who have a psychiatric or a substance abuse disability, or both. The agency also began its Shelter Initiative Program featuring the work of a full-time case manager working half-time in the St. Elizabeth House residential program and half-time in the Friendship Center meals program and specializing in working with homeless people with mental health and chemical dependency disabilities.
In 2002, Mercy Housing adopted the Recovery Model of case management for its programs agency-wide.
In 2002 and 2003, Four to five months each year, during the severe winter weather, Mercy spearheaded the creation of special “No-Freeze” facilities at St. Elizabeth House offering overnight emergency shelter from the extreme cold, along with food, and case management services for homeless adults in Hartford.
In 2003, MHSC doubled the capacity of its Mental Health Community Respite Program located at St. Elizabeth House, Hartford and closed its Bethany program. The Hartford Residential Program was changed from two separate programs to one. Previously, it had been a 24-bed Emergency Shelter and a 42-bed Transitional Living Program. The resulting program is a 48-bed Transitional Living Program for homeless single adults with each resident having their own private, keyed room.
Mercy was designated by the CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services as a “Center of Excellence” for its effective use of the Recovery Model of case management throughout the agency. MHSC Executive Director Sister Patricia McKeon was named to the Steering Committee of the statewide “Reaching Home” campaign to create 10,000 units of supportive housing throughout Connecticut.
In 2004, Mercy Housing opened a new program at a secure facility in West Hartford, The Residence at St. Mary’s. The Residence includes 12 one-bedroom units for single, homeless, adult men/women with chronic mental health disabilities. This 24/7 program provides a full complement of intensive supportive services. MHSC joined forces with St. Patrick/St. Anthony’s Parish to provide a temporary 18-bed emergency “No-Freeze” shelter called Catherine’s Place. Short-term housing, plus food and case management services for adult, single homeless women were provided for four months during the most severe winter weather.
In 2005, Mercy joined with St. Patrick’s/St. Anthony’s Parish and the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry in providing the services of Catherine’s Place year-round. The short-term residential program has a 14-bed capacity for homeless single adult women and provides a plethora of supportive services.
The Jump-Start center, located in St. Elizabeth House, was launched to offer specialized education and employment opportunities to MHSC clients.
Mercy Executive Director Sister Patricia McKeon was presented with the POLARIS Award for 2005 for outstanding social services work in the community by Leadership Greater Hartford.
The agency was presented with the Most Rev. Joseph F. Donnelly Award by the Office of Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Hartford for significant accomplishments over a long period of time in the pursuit of social justice.
Sister Patricia McKeon was named an “Unsung Hero” by the Hope and Human Spirit Forum, hosted by The Phoenix Companies, Hartford, and selected by the mayor to serve on Hartford’s Commission to End Chronic Homelessness.
In 2006, Mercy Housing and Shelter was selected as one of two non-profit social service provider recipients in the Greater Hartford area to be awarded the Neighborhood Builder Award for 2006. This award is part of the Bank of America’s annual Neighborhood Excellence Initiative.
The agency withdrew from two programs operated in conjunction with the Community Renewaql Team, Project TEACH and the Family Collaborative.
The City of Hartford’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Hartford Women recognized Mercy Housing Executive Director Sister Patricia McKeon as a Hartford woman “who has made a difference in the community.”
In 2007, Citizen’s Bank of Connecticut and WTNH, News Channel 8 of New Haven, named Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. as their first “Champion in Action” for 2007. Champions in Action is a partnership of these two organizations launched in 2002 to provide financial support and public awareness to the non-profit organizations that work every day to champion change in their communities.
The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services gave Mercy Housing an Outstanding Achievement Award for having the highest overall ratings in state Region No.4 2007 consumer surveys.
In 2008, MHSC formally announced its first ever capital campaign to renovate St. Elizabeth House at 118 Main St., Hartford. The front part of the house, built in 1807, is the birthplace and childhood home of Henry Barnard, the first education commissioner for the United States, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The back of the house was added in 1908 by the Sisters of the Holy Spirit when they ran a home for single women working in Hartford.
In addition, the CT Department of Social Services awarded to Mercy rental subsidies and supportive services funds for three new scattered-site housing units devoted to homeless adults with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Middletown area. DMHAS/DSS awarded MHSC with 19 new rental subsidies with appropriate supportive services funding through the Next Steps Supportive Housing Funding Initiative. Ten units were for the Greater Hartford area; nine for the Greater Middletown area.