In 1983, Rita McCaffrey, for over 12 years the Coordinator of the Thresholds/Decisions prison volunteer program, and her husband, Vermont District Court Judge Francis McCaffrey visited the original Dismas House in Nashville, Tenn. Later, they visited other existing Dismas House programs in Tennessee and Ireland. Impressed by the effectiveness of these programs, and convinced of the need for a similar program in Vermont, they returned with a determination to establish a Dismas House in Burlington.
A task Force composed of many dedicated prison volunteers, enthusiastically began meeting in March, 1985 and a Board of Directors was established in April, 1986. Supported by prisoners, students, volunteers and the Department of Corrections, Burlington Dismas House formally opened its doors at 96 Buell Street in Burlington in September, 1986.
In 2004 it became increasingly obvious that there was a shortage of housing for former prisoners. The Governor’s Commission on Prison Overcrowding published their findings that there were many men and women who were still in prison simply for lack of housing. After three years of planning and collaboration with Vermont Department of Corrections, Burlington Housing Authority, and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Burlington Dismas House opened East Allen Dismas, providing an additional 11 beds. It is located at 103 East Allen Street, Winooski.
Since opening in 1986, over 1,600 men and women have lived at Dismas House. In 2018, Dismas is celebrating its 32nd anniversary. During that time the program has become a valuable part of the community.