In the 171 years since, the sisters have worked with some of the area’s most impoverished and vulnerable residents – a ministry that continues with Joseph’s Home (serving men) and Mary’s Home (serving women), a pair of medical respite facilities under the auspices of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
Bishop Edward Malesic got his first look at the homes during a visit on Aug. 2. Beth Graham, executive director, and Anthony Searcy, a Gesu (University Heights) parishioner and chair of Joseph’s Home’s board of trustees, helped guide the bishop through the facilities. Residents greeted him with a cheery “Hello” and one woman even asked for his blessing.
(See photo gallery above.)
The bishop listened intently as staff members and residents talked about the homes and their importance to the community. He commended the staff for their dedication to their ministry and offered his prayers and support for them and the residents.
He learned that about 30 years ago, some of the sisters recognized the growing problem of those experiencing homelessness, especially those who had been discharged from the hospital and had nowhere to stay as they recovered. A “Dream Team” of sisters studied the situation and decided to focus on meeting the needs of men experiencing homelessness. As their work continued, the seeds of Joseph’s house were planted.
In 1997, the CSAs approved the incorporation of Joseph’s Home. During the next few years, they secured the use of a former convent near St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, the downtown hospital run by the sisters, and raised money for renovations and working capital.
In May 2000, Joseph’s Home opened. The first resident was welcomed that August. Its mission is to help the men residents obtain permanent housing, improve their health, obtain a GED, develop job skills and prepare to enter the workforce.
The companion facility, Mary’s Home, opened in March in an adjacent building. Graham, who serves as executive director for both, said they fill a much-needed niche as medical respites. Only about three such facilities exist in Ohio and Mary’s Home is the only one Graham knows of that serves women.
She said they work with many social service and medical organizations to ensure that residents’ needs are met. Joseph’s Home serves about 40-50 men in a typical year. It can house up to 11 men at a time, while Mary’s Home can accommodate up to 10 women. Nutritious meals are prepared by the dietary staff at SVCM, which is across the street.
Residents have their own private rooms, access to common areas including outdoor courtyard/sitting spaces, laundry facilities and restrooms. Graham said the Sisters of Charity Health System donated some statues, including an outdoor Blessed Mother statue for Mary’s Home, and some crucifixes.
She noted that many former Joseph’s Home residents have improved/stabilized their health and found permanent housing. An average stay is about 75 days. Since Mary’s home opened, five women have passed through. One found permanent housing (see related video), one chose to leave and three moved into a facility with a higher level of care.
Although there were many challenges during the pandemic, Graham said the Joseph’s Home staff adapted, implemented safety guidelines and kept the facility open. Mary’s Home, a former school, was under renovation and pandemic-related supply chain issues delayed the arrival of furniture and other items.
Both facilities are at capacity, Graham said.
According to data collected by the two facilities, 77% of men at Joseph’s Home are older than 55. Data for the first quarter of Mary’s Home’s operations showed that 82% of the residents were older than 55. Because they serve adults who are experiencing both homelessness and medical issues, Graham said they tend to skew older.
Peaches, a Mary’s Home resident who has been battling cancer, told Bishop Malesic, “The house gave me a place to stay, a place to shower and a place to eat.”
The bishop urged the staff and board to continue sharing the facilities’ story. “People don’t want to be homeless,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that Mary’s Home and Joseph’s Home are needed,” Searcy said. “But we’re here for those who need them.”
Both homes welcome in-kind donations of cash, gift cards – especially Target, Home Depot, Giant Eagle, Dave’s Markets, ALDI, Walmart and Visa gift cards -- new under garments, socks and personal hygiene items like razors, shaving cream, moisturizing body wash, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, sunscreen, textured hair care products, hair brushes and hair picks. Call Erin Gay Miyoshi, development director, at 216-987-9201 for more information.