St. Louis – June 21, 2022 – One of the greatest challenges of our time is helping people leaving prison to successfully return to their communities. But long before the issue grabbed national headlines, Dismas House of St. Louis has been helping more than 10,000 men transition from incarceration to become productive members of society.
Dismas House, the nation’s first halfway house, continues to improve families and neighborhoods across metropolitan St. Louis, more than six decades into its mission.
Dismas House was founded in 1959 by Jesuit priest Father Dismas Clark who saw the problem clearly and dreamed of a place to make a difference. With the financial support of Morris Shenker, a young lawyer doing free legal work for the poor, they renovated an old school in north St. Louis into a home for 60 men leaving prison. The nation’s first half-way house was born.
Their pioneering work continues to this day. In 1972, Dismas House moved into its current location, where it provides housing and services for men through its contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. In addition, Dismas House offers employment consulting, job placement, help with financial literacy, behavioral therapy, and educational and social services. Clients are monitored closely, including while working off-campus, searching for employment opportunities, or visiting family.
John House, Federal Program Director shared, “We treat the whole man by working on how to make him more self-confident, how to work with his family and how to find ways that he can have an anchor to the community. Our goal is that our clients do not return to the behavior that got them incarcerated. These men want to be successful, and we want to help them do everything they can to succeed.”
Its unique history, coupled with its extensive experience and resources, sets Dismas House apart from other organizations.
Recently appointed CEO, Kevin Walk shared, “I continue to be inspired by the passion and commitment Dismas House staff exhibits daily in the service of our clients. We take seriously the opportunity and responsibility of serving our clients and the community through residential reentry.” Mr. Walk has been in role less than a year and has made a significant impact from not only a leadership perspective, but by adding additional talent to the organization.
CFO Mike Kean joined Dismas House in 2021 and in his short time with the organization, has helped secure their 501c3 status, implemented budgeting and cost control systems, and has enhanced financial oversight and controls.
HR Director Carly Haas joined in late 2021 and immediately began improving the employee experience and benefits. Mr. Walk said, “The feedback from our staff has been overwhelmingly positive with all the recent changes.”
Mr. Walk shared, “I am proud of the Dismas House team and the direction we are heading. With a newer board, new leadership, as well as with our tenured and experienced team, we are all here to serve our clients and the community. While perception could be that leadership decisions may have been obscured in the past, we all now serve with the goal to get the organization back to the core principles on which it was founded.”