Founded in Austin in 2000, Saint Louise House—originally called VinCare Services of Austin—is a grassroots organization inspired by the Vincentian model of service to the poor. Saint Vincent de Paul was a 17th century Catholic priest who dedicated his life to serving the poor with humility. We were also inspired by Saint Louise de Marillac, who along with Saint Vincent de Paul, co-founded the Daughters of Charity.
The founders of Saint Louise House were a group of parishioners led by Sr. Sharon Groetsch, D.C. from Saint Austin Catholic Church who were called out of the spirit of social justice to serve those in need. Though our founders were inspired by their Christian faith, we welcome people from all walks of life at Saint Louise House—as residents, volunteers and staff.
“Serve those who are poor with gentleness and love.” –St. Louise de Marillac
The roots of the organization began with the Outreach to Street Youth program, which began in 1997 as a weekly meal program serving youth ages 12 to 22 living on the streets near the UT campus. In collaboration with Lifeworks, St. Austin’s and other university-area churches, the Outreach to Street Youth program also provided a freezing weather shelter and access to case management services.
Our organization felt called to do more, so we surveyed Austin-area homeless service providers—nonprofits, government agencies and churches—to identify the greatest need in our community.
The Daughters of Charity shared our vision to provide transitional housing for our community’s women-led homeless families, and they issued us a challenge. They would grant Saint Louise House $175,000 if we could raise $350,000. And we did! Generous donors and the Daughters made it possible for us to rent space in 2001 to house the first five Saint Louise House families. Later that year, we doubled the capacity of families we could serve to 11, with the purchase of a small apartment-style complex in North Austin.
With an ever-growing waiting list, and too many families in Austin still living on couches or in cars, or forced to live apart, we applied for General Obligation Bond funding. Thanks to this award from the City of Austin, we purchased a 24-unit apartment complex in South Austin. Twenty-two families currently call this complex home. Our small staff uses two offices on-site to work closely with our families.
“If ten times a day you go to serve persons who are poor, ten times a day you will meet God there.” – St. Vincent de Paul
When asked by Saint Louise House staff what the best part of living outside of a shelter and in her own home was, one mother replied, “Having a front door. With a lock. I’m safe and my children are safe. And we have a place to call our own.” In 2009, again in partnership with the City of Austin, we acquired another 24-unit apartment complex.
When we were founded in 2000, the need was for transitional housing for women-led families, so that’s what we did. As our families’ educational aspirations outgrew our 24-month time frame and Austin’s housing costs on the rise, we recognized the need for long-term supportive housing.
Since opening its doors in 2001, Saint Louise House has been home to over 160 families with over 330 children. Saint Louise House has grown from five rented apartments to two agency-owned complexes with 48 apartments.
Outreach to Street Youth Program begins
Saint Louise House incorporated as a 501(c)3
Saint Louise House opens its doors to five families in a rented space. Later that year, we purchased a 12 unit apartment-style complex in North Austin.
Thanks to the City of Austin, Saint Louise House purchased a 24-unit apartment complex in South Austin.
Thanks again to the City of Austin, Saint Louise House purchased another 24-unit South Austin complex.
Saint Louise House celebrates a decade of service while serving families in 27 apartments.
Saint Louise House serves families in 34 apartments.
Founding Executive Director Sharon Bieser retires and transitions to the Board of Directors, welcoming Laura Ward as our agency’s second Executive Director. The Board of Directors creates an award titled the “Sr. Sharon Groetsch See the Need Award,” and Sharon Bieser is the first recipient.
Saint Louise House begins expanding services again with the goal of serving families in all 48 apartments as soon as funding allows.