Magnificat Houses officially began in 1968 with an old, large house in a declining Houston neighborhood-and one mentally ill young woman just off the bus from the state mental hospital with one woman between her and the streets.
Rose Mary Badami had been preparing for her, whomever she might be. A career social worker, Rose Mary had seen first hand the devastation caused by the closing of state mental institutions on hopes that new psychotropic drugs would solve the social issues associated with mental illness. She knew local day clinics could help on an emergency basis, but without a nurturing home base, the lost population would continue to roam the streets, homeless, hungry and even lacking the ability to monitor their own medications. Rehabilitation was out of the question.
After serious study of what worked–and what did not–Rosemary raised capital for that dilapidated first house on Sherman Street. With two women from The Legion of Mary at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, she set about making the place habitable. She notified city social services: "We'll take anyone who needs a place to stay. No questions asked."
Within two hours, Resident #1 was ensconced into her new home, with a hot meal prepared by an overnight volunteer. Within a month, all five beds were full, but Rose Mary kept the doors open. Soon homeless women occupied the sofas and more slept on floor pallets. Rose Mary was busy fundraising for other affordable houses in the area–a practice she continued for the next 46 years. Rehabbing the old houses was largely done by the residents themselves, with pay, imparting dignity and responsibility, while providing new skills sets.
As social needs changed, Magnificat changed with them. In 1976, other charities provided breakfast and supper to the growing Houston homeless population, so Rose Mary set about covering lunch by opening Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen in the heart of downtown's area, then known as; "skid row."
With the rise of HIV/AIDS, she added a special-needs house. In 2006, the St. Joseph House Clubhouse joined The ICCD (an international movement for mental health), adding social services for the mentally ill to her ongoing efforts.
In 2012 the multi-purporse Moran Center opened, offering skills training to residents in its modern woodworking studio and thrift shop, and a rehabilitative arts program.
Then and Now
Today's robust revival of areas south and east of Downtown, now called Midtown and Neartown, respectively, began with Magnificat's early investment in these then depressed neighborhoods, notably with sweat equity. Contrary to proving that the neighborhoods would inevitably decline with the influx of the poor, Rose Mary's intuition and tenacity have proven fruitful.
Just one of the old structures brought back to life by the Magnificat residents. Today, this restored building is graced by a working herb garden maintained by residents and volunteers.