St. Leonard’s House opened its doors in the mid-1950s through the efforts of Father James Jones, Chaplain at Chicago’s Bridewell Jail, and many interested members of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Father Jones and Father Robert Taylor, both Episcopal priests, were early forces in shaping St. Leonard’s; both were well known in Chicago and with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). Since its doors first opened, programs for those released from prison have been provided at the original location at the corner of Hoyne & Warren on Chicago’s West Side.
The second residential building on the St. Leonard’s House campus, 2110 West Warren, was purchased in the mid-1960s and later housed a program for troubled youth as well as a few local political offices. The building lay abandoned through the 1980s. It was then rehabbed and reopened to provide additional program space for the men who came to St. Leonard’s House. This effort brought the number of available beds to 40. Soon, additional office space was provided with the rehab and expansion of Randall Hall. This building is named after former resident and executive director, Louis Randall, and provides space for administrative offices.
In response to the growing number of women in Illinois prisons, Grace House opened in 1994. Temporarily located at 5lst and Ashland, the program was soon moved to a permanent residence for 18 women at the corner of Adams and Wood Streets, just a few blocks from St. Leonard’s House. To respond to another need, St. Andrew’s Court was opened in 1998 to provide housing and accompanying supportive services to men who leave St. Leonard’s House. Located just north of St. Leonard’s House, St. Andrew’s Court provides 42 units of single-room-occupancy apartments and supportive services.
In 2000, based on the emergence of three distinct programs growing out of the mission of St. Leonard’s House, an umbrella entity was created and named “St. Leonard’s Ministries.” The new organization is the umbrella agent for St. Leonard’s House, Grace House, St. Andrew’s Court and the Michael Barlow Center.
The Michael Barlow Center (MBC) was opened early in 2005. Directed by the goals of SLM’s Long Range Plan, the Staff and Board of St. Leonard’s Ministries initiated the Michael Barlow Center to meet the short and long-term employment needs of formerly incarcerated men and women. Program services are provided through a network of collaborative linkages with Chicago area resources. The Center serves approximately 250 men and women each year, many of whom are current or former SLM program participants.
During the last fifteen years, program expansion has developed in a number of areas. Accordingly, the staff of St. Leonard’s Ministries has also increased. Notable increases resulted from the development of Grace House, St. Andrew’s Court and the Michael Barlow Center. The Adler School of Professional Psychology has continued its long-standing presence in the delivery of specialized program services. A Mentoring Program, stronger at Grace House than at St. Leonard’s House, is in place. The Michael Barlow Center addresses employment and educational concerns of SLM program participants and a segment of the larger formerly incarcerated community. Father Jones’ dream of creating a viable response to the needs of those leaving prison has grown to a force of 62 employees, caring for approximately 400 men and women yearly as they move from the despair of post-prison trauma to meaningful lives.
Funding History and Sources
In its early days, St. Leonard’s House was funded by individual donations from members of the Episcopal Church. An active Women’s Board helped fund the program from the 1950s through the 1970s. In the 1960s, large sums of federal funding earmarked for eradication of drug use were channeled into St. Leonard’s House. The United Way began funding St. Leonard’s House in the early 1980s as did the Illinois Department of Corrections through its Title XX Program. In 1994, the Chicago Department of Human Services began funding Grace House, as did the Illinois Dept. of Human Services. The Episcopal Diocese and Episcopal Charities and Community Services have consistently provided support.