Through the Years

To Joan Lohr, the need for a facility to feed the hungry was evident 14 years before it became a reality. However, it wasn’t until she joined forces with Fr. Robert Baker, then pastor of the Cathedral Basilica, that the movement became a reality.

In 1984, the St. Augustine Society was formed with Lohr at the helm and a soup kitchen was formed. The first meals were served at the St. Paul AME Church with volunteers from the community and churches providing the manpower.

The organization moved to its own building at 70 Washington Street in 1985, and began services under the name of St. Francis House.

Although much has changed, services continue in the same building to this day. Additional services and buildings were added as the years progressed.

  • 1986– shelter for men added
  • 1987– shelter for women added
  • 2011– 64 Washington Street leased from St. Mary’s Baptist Church for Transitional Living Program
  • 2012– 76 Washington Street purchased
  • 2013– 64 Washington Street purchased
  • 2016–  SOS Street Outreach for adults launched
    – Port in the Storm Youth Center building purchased
    – Hurricane Matthew devastates Washington Street campus
  • 2017 – SOS Youth Street Outreach launched
    – Port in the Storm services for homeless/unaccompanied youth launched

While the housing crisis campus has grown to include 3 buildings on Washington Street, the most significant changes came in 2013 with the new leadership of Executive Director, Judy Dembowski. Programs have grown from primarily meeting basic needs to the present housing-focused, client-centered format for individuals and families with children.

In 2015, our board of directors drafted a new strategic plan confirming our mission to provide housing crisis services to all in need. With that commitment, the decision was made to expand services to populations unserved in our community – in particular, unaccompanied/homeless youth.

An appropriate building was purchased for the new youth initiative in late 2016. After renovation, the building will be home to a youth program including a day drop-in center and shelter beds for homeless youth. A capital campaign is being conducted to raise funds for the building and to launch the Port in the Storm youth program.

A major hurricane devastated the Washington Street campus in October 2016. Renovations are in progress with most work expected to be complete by the end of 2017. Renovation of the new Port in the Storm building will begin in 2018 or as soon as funds are available.

Today, the programs of St. Augustine Society, Inc. provide solutions that change lives for youth, adults and families.