President Emeritus Father Joe
The Joe Carroll story is the archetypal American epic: A poor kid from the Bronx with a knack for making a buck seeks fame and fortune in California with the goal of becoming a millionaire. But Carroll’s fame, fortune and notoriety were divinely redirected from personal gains to more universal ones.
He arrived on the West Coast with $50 to his name and began to reflect on his childhood. Carroll remembered sitting down to dinner with his family in the two-bedroom apartment that sat directly across the street from their parish, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Despite its own meager accommodations, the family of 10 would pray for the less fortunate.
So rather than making financial investments, Carroll made a spiritual one and entered the seminary. In 1974, he was ordained a Catholic priest and devoted the next eight years to parish work, building a strong group of supporters who found his charisma and gregarious personality hard to resist. But as his congregation grew, so did another group of San Diegans: the homeless. The head of San Diego’s Catholic Church, Bishop Leo T. Maher, was well aware of the problem and appointed Father Joe in 1982 to create a “preferential option for the poor.”
Father Joe traveled the country and studied the issues the homeless faced. What he found was scattered services and dirty, run-down shelters. Invigorated to help San Diego’s homeless, he devised the idea of an urban oasis and organized a board of prominent San Diegans who joined him in putting into action his plans of building a Village within a city.
Father Joe developed what has become known as the Continuum of Care, a unique take on human service assistance that combines a multitude of rehabilitative programs and services in one location. This “one-stop-shopping” approach to rehabilitation profoundly impacted the entire country’s philosophy of care by placing clients in a compassionate and dignified environment, while facilitating easy access to a comprehensive list of services.
This unique collection of programs and services has since been widely endorsed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as the preferred foundation upon which rehabilitative curricula are built.
In 1987, Father Joe’s dream was launched with the completion of the first building, the Joan Kroc Center, followed by the Bishop Maher Center in 1989 and the Paul Mirable Center in 1994. The campus is home to families with children as well as single men and women who participate in either short- or long-term residential programs.
Located on two city blocks, St. Vincent’s provides its clients access to comprehensive services dedicated to their immediate and future needs. Every aspect of the Village obliterates the stereotypes of the common homeless shelter – from its mission-style architecture to the fresh meals served daily in its two dining rooms, St. Vincent’s exudes a sense of dignity and compassion. The resulting self-respect, coupled with the multitude of in-house services, reinforces the personal investment residents make toward their rise to self-sufficiency.
Since the inception of its earliest residential programs, the Village has existed in a constant state of evolution–always inventing and re-inventing itself in the never-ending pursuit of achieving more for the people it serves. The successes of permanent supportive housing and transitional housing remain integral to a comprehensive suite of services; the Village’s “one-stop-shop” approach continues to diversify its programs and services by integrating more interim shelter, permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing programs to best meet the needs of those on the street. Today Father Joe’s Villages stands strong on the San Diego landscape through the Toussaint Academy, the Josue Homes, St Vincent de Paul Village and the permanent housing facilities at The Village Place and 16th and Market Streets. Father Joe’s Villages exemplifies the legacy of this man of vision, as each day those entrusted with the sacred care of our neighbors in need work to end homelessness on life at a time.
In the news: Father Joe’s Legacy Lasts Beyond Retirement