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Magdala was formed in 1968 as a halfway house for women. The first service offered was a 25-bed halfway house in the Lafayette Square area.

Magdala started off by providing a safe place for female ex-offenders.

Magdala Foundation’s humble beginnings began out of inspiration and a need. St. Louis Jesuit priest Father Charles Dismas successfully opened the country’s first halfway house for men called the Dismas House in 1959.

Magdala Foundation, a group inspired by the father, wanted to open the country’s first halfway house for women. Before the doors opened in 1968, this determined team worked hard to raise funds to purchase a home in Lafayette Square. With help from businesses, the community, and grants, the house was renovated, and 25 beds were filled by women excited for a second chance. The halfway house operated for several years and served over 1500 women.

Within the penal system, Magdala’s reputation grew. It became known as the organization that truly cared for its residents. Because of Magdala’s newfound fame, male prisoners began to write, requesting that the organization design a program for them. At the time, the only halfway house (in St. Louis) for men was the Dismas House. The Dismas House received more applications than they could ever handle, so Magdala stepped up and began housing former male inmates too. With success in the women’s halfway house, three men’s halfway houses were later opened.

Our work in mental health led to housing intellectually disabled adults.

Magdala Foundation’s growth continued. The organization started off providing a safe place for ex-offenders, which led to simultaneous work with the mental health community. We knew our residents dealt with traumas, and new resources helped us lend counseling services to those dealing with mental illnesses, whether they were living in our homes or on the streets.

This is how Magdala then discovered another community that was not being served, the Intellectual Disabled adult community. With Magdala’s success in delivering services, housing for developmentally disabled and intellectual disabled adults was added as well as programs for substance abuse counseling, family counseling, parent training, and crisis intervention.

An organization that now helps all those who cannot help themselves.

Magdala, organizationally, has always made itself available to those not being served, being underserved, or being served poorly. Over the years, Magdala expanded its earlier services to include counseling for families, for those struggling with substance abuse and sexual abuse, and for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Currently, we are serving and housing adults who are intellectually and developmentally disabled. We have expanded to serve the St. Louis homeless population in Jefferson Spaces (Tiny Homes), and we have additional programs of day habilitation, substance abuse, and Independent Supported Living (ISL).

Throughout our history, Magdala has always cared for people. Magdala is working hard to restart some of the past programs, build up current programs, and create new programs. Be on the lookout for what is to come of the Magdala Foundation and how we are working to better the St. Louis community!

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