Our History

History of Bethany House Services at a Glance

1983     Bethany House of Hospitality is founded by Mary Grafe, SC and Dee Sizler, SC and Barb Poppe to offer hospitality to homeless women seeking shelter.

1984    Incorporates as a non-profit organization with a Board of Trustees, Code of Regulations, and Articles of Incorporation. Mary Stanton moves into Hollister St. house owned by the Church of Our Savior and begins Board, fund and resource development.

1985    Mary Stanton, RSM, is named Director of Bethany House; case management plan of social service delivery is implemented.

1987    Outgrows the original location in Episcopal Church rectory on Hollister Street in Mt. Auburn.  Volunteers renovate Church Women United facility at 1836 Fairmount Avenue (our shelter today) to accommodate 25 homeless women and children.

1989    Bethany House Services (change of name and purpose) to reflect the daily focus and operation of social services and the formal Outreach Advocacy and Transitional Housing Programs.

1990    A more sophisticated administration structure is developed for the Staff and Board, with an Executive Director and Program Directors.

1991    Child/Parent Program is added.  BHS creates partnerships and expands to operate programs in six locations with easy access to city bus lines.

1992    BHS purchases its first property at 1841 Fairmount Avenue with the help of the Seton Enablement Fund.  Messer Construction Company plays a key volunteer role in the building renovation and GCF funds the computer system.

1993    In January 1841 Fairmount Avenue becomes the Administrative/Outreach Center, housing the Finance, Development, and Outreach offices as well as the Resource center and Nurses Aide Training offices.

In the summer of 1993, the groundbreaking for Bethany Homes, the first permanent housing program for the agency occurs.

1994    Bethany Homes opens on Yearling Court offering 24 units of affordable housing, family picnic grove, playground and parking lot areas.  Community building is planned for construction in 1995.  Bethany House Services kicks off its formal Endowment Campaign.

1995    Bethany Homes creates a Tenant Council and initiates a Children’s program on site.  Bethany appoints a Social Services Director to coordinate and supervise all agency social work and program staff.  Bethany hosts its first Summer Children’s Carnival.

1996    BHS Board of Trustees votes to require random drug testing for Bethany Homes tenants in order to promote a drug-free residential environment.  The Community Building of Bethany Homes is completed.  In partnership with the Greater Cincinnati Mortgage Counseling Services, a home-ownership program is begun for Bethany Homes tenants.

1997    Bethany Woods is developed on the land donated to BHS by the Betz family in 1995.  In July, five Bethany Woods’ tenants move into their own homes that they now own.  Bethany creates and implements an in-house medical counseling program for program participants. Bethany Place, “A Connecting Place for Women” opens as Bethany’s newest program providing transitional housing and supportive services for single women without children.

1998    As a result of welfare reform, the needs of the population being served by BHS changes and BHS responds by changing its social service delivery system to accommodate the widespread challenges facing the families.

1999    Celebration of the Fifteenth Anniversary year.  Bethany Shelter and Bethany Place are renovated through agency volunteer program.

2000    BHS initiates the Family Shelter Partnership Program in collaboration with the Hamilton County Department of Human Services and five other family shelters in Cincinnati.

2001    BHS creates a Post Shelter Support Program and adds Volunteer Program to Bethany Homes.  Family fundamentals and Life Skills Development Program is offered Monday through Thursday at BHS.

2002    BHS Family Shelter Partnership Program thrives as a model of collaboration.  BHS gets a webpage – www.bethanyhouseservices.org.

2003    BHS purchases the house at 1836 Fairmount to be used for agency Case Management Services, Development/Volunteer and Transitions offices.  BHS named “best agency for volunteering” in Cincinnati by Inspire magazine.

2004    Social Services Center is renovated.  BHS celebrates 20 years with a gala at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on November 6.

2005    The new BHS Social Services Center opens after the purchase and renovation of a home next to the Administration building and across the street from the shelter.

2006    The Vehicle Campaign raises funds to purchase a new van for food and supply pick-ups and delivery of items for fundraising events and general cargo use.

2009    BHS celebrates 25 years of providing a home for the homeless.  The Board begins a new Strategic Plan.

2010    BHS is awarded Rapid Re-housing grant, which is a new Transitional Housing Program funded by HUD.

2011    Board launches the comprehensive Campaign for endowment, capital and the program.

2012    The Family Shelter Partnership Program starts a new project called CAP, which is a central access point to reach staff who will provide appropriate placement in one of the six family shelters in our city.

2013    The Board of Directors publishes a Strategic Plan.  Sister Mary Stanton, Executive Director, retires after 30 years. Susan Schiller, new Executive Director, joins BHS in September.

2014    BHS begins discussions with Mercy Health-St. John to assume operations of their Housing Program, which provides shelter to homeless families in three apartment buildings in Over-the-Rhine, Mt. Auburn, and Walnut Hills.

2015    BHS experiences unprecedented growth.  On January 1, 2015 after 7 months of negotiations, BHS takes over Mercy Health-St. John’s three emergency shelters in Over-the-Rhine, Mt. Auburn, and Walnut Hills increasing in size from 30 beds at its Fairmount shelter to 130 beds.  Previously, BHS sheltered 1 of 10 homeless families in our community; with the addition of Mercy Health-St. John Bethany House becomes the largest family shelter in the region sheltering 5 in 10 homeless families.

On July 1, 2015 BHS adds a new housing program when they take over Mercy Health-St. John Shelter Diversion program.

2016    BHS relocates families in the former Mercy apartments in Over-the-Rhine, Mt. Auburn, and Walnut Hills to three apartment buildings in East Westwood – just two miles from the Fairmount campus. By mid-year, BHS projects in 2016 they will serve 1300 individuals in the shelter, 850 will be children.

2017    Bethany House continues to respond to the community’s need and begins a Permanent Supportive Housing program for people with complex needs. Mental Health Services are expanded on-site with collaborations with The Children’s Home and with Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health. Work continues with Solutions for Family Homelessness and Trauma-Informed Care training begins across the agency.

2018    BHS saw increased need in the community in 2018 and our four shelters were overflowing. From January through May we placed over 50 families in hotel rooms in Sharonville. The unprecedented increase in the number of families seeking shelter required rental of a fifth shelter facility. In June of 2018, an empty group home on the property of St. Aloysius in Bond Hill was opened with 40 additional beds bringing our total bed count to 170.

After a four-year search for property to consolidate seven buildings, Bethany House purchased 2.63 acres from St. Aloysius on Reading Road in Bond Hill.

2019    The Bethany House Board, committee members and staff focused on the future in 2019 like never before. Their goal was a new consolidated shelter and comprehensive services center. Fundraising kicked off in the fall of 2020 with the largest gift Bethany House has ever received – $1.25 million from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Day 1 Families Fund. The year ended with over $4 million raised toward our goal so $16.5 million.

2019 was Bethany House’s most impactful year ever ensuring 606 families found safety in shelter, established a new home and developed a path to independence.

2020    Just two months into 2020, Bethany House and the entire world faced COVID-19, a 100-year pandemic. Both congregate shelters in Bond Hill and Fairmount were closed and families were moved to hotel rooms to keep them safe and healthy. The board and staff led efforts to design a new consolidated shelter and services center and raise Capital Campaign funds to reach the $16.5 million goal.