AT JACOB’ S W EL L , I N C .
TWENTY-FOUR YEARS OF SERVICE
TO THE HOMELESS MENTALLY ILL
At Jacob's Well, Inc. was founded in 1985 by a small group of caring people in response to the epidemic of homelessness among the mentally ill that was a result of deinstitutionalization. They had been in- spired by a workshop held in a Washington D.C. church conducted by Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche in France, a community where people with developmental disabilities live together with those who provide ser- vices to them. The name given to one of the work groups in which they met was Jacob’s Well.’
In March of 1986, At Jacob's Well opened its irst transitional residence in a rented house in the Remington neighborhood. The house be- came home to four formerly homeless, low-income, men- tally ill men. At Jacob’s Well was incorporated later that year on June 10, 1986 with the stated purpose of serving the poor of Baltimore City, espe- cially the homeless and mentally ill. At first, all work was per- formed by the Board members. They undertook a variety of projects, including street outreach, a feeding van, the Boots for Baltimore Program, as well as housing for mentally ill homeless persons.
Under the leadership of Margaret Tho- mas, At Jacob’s Well’s first Executive Direc- tor, employees were hired and the housing program continued to expand. A house for the men was purchased to replace the rented one and a house for women was soon opened. An of ice was rented on St. Paul Street. Then in 1989, a second house for men was opened. Shortly afterward, a house on East 25th Street, a distressed neighbor- hood full of abandoned buildings, was pur- chased to house a new of ice as well as an-
other transitional residence. The Board de- cided that since most other needs of the homeless mentally ill were now being met by other agencies, At Jacob's Well would concentrate on providing housing and sup- portive services.
The transitional program grew slowly over the next few years, acquiring and con- verting abandoned buildings in the 25th Street neighborhood. By the time the sev- enth transitional house, designed to accom- modate persons with physical as well as mental disabilities, was opened in 1994, Margo was ready to hand over the adminis- trative duties of Executive Director to Keith
Roach. She stayed on as Pro- gram Director to supervise the provision of services to the 22 mentally ill men and women who called the At Jacob’s Well home.
At Jacob’s Well began its permanent housing program in 1998 for ‘graduates’ of our Transitional Housing Program. It grew slowly over the years. The Permanent Housing Pro- gram now houses twenty resi- dents in apartments throughout the city. Eight of these apartments are in buildings owned by At Jacob’s Well. The crowning jewel of the Permanent Housing Program is ‘Margo’s House,’ formerly a burned out crack house on the block that was converted into three beautiful apartments.
At Jacob’s Well’s history has been one of caring: caring enough to address the needs of homeless mentally ill in a direct, person-to-person way; caring enough to make our neighborhoods better. It is true that we are no longer are the all volunteer group, However, the caring that inspired that irst group still inspires us today.