It All Started with a Question: What If?

In 1974, Father Jack Hickey and a group of Vanderbilt University students came up with an idea. What if, they asked, we could create a safe haven where we could share a home with formerly incarcerated transitioning out of prison — a place that would build a deeper sense of community for both parties and would help returning citizens find supportive services, obtain jobs and become full and successful participants in the larger society?

As Father Hickey saw it, college students and formerly incarcerated are at a similar stage in life — preparing to take their place as contributors to society. He believed each could benefit and learn from the other.

As a symbol of the kind of place they envisioned, the founders looked to the name that, according to Christian tradition, was associated with the “penitent thief” who was crucified alongside Jesus and who became reconciled to God.