History of Burlington Dismas
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, more than 1000 men and women have lived at Burlington Dismas House. Over the years, the program has become a valuable part of the community.
Richard Gagné, currently House Director at East Allen Dismas and Program Manager for Dismas of Vermont, Inc., was a member of the original VT Dismas founding committee and became the first Dismas House Director. Richard has continued to serve for over 30 years. Kimberly Parsons, who joined Burlington Dismas House in 1990 as a House Director, still leads Buell Street Dismas and is recognized for her accomplishments in fundraising and development.
Burlington Dismas Local Council
Rita Whalen McCaffrey
“Dismas House is the home I never had. This is where I got my start. Now I can stand on my feet, I’ve become an independent person and part of the community.”
– Dismas House Alumnus, Former Prisoner