Unity House Organizational History

Two abandoned apartments and four thousand dollars are scant resources to launch an ambitious venture to help the poor. But 1971 was a time of idealism and hope, and the founders of Unity House saw too much need all around them to be deterred.

In July, 1971 a nun, Mary Jane Smith, and two Franciscan friars, Regis Obijiski and Peter Callaghan, opened the doors of a dilapidated building on Eighth Street that was to be the base of their effort to reach out to the community.

According to Mary Jane Smith, “We tried to be everything to every man, woman and child who walked through the door.”

They worked with people to cut through the red tape of the welfare system, prodded landlords to maintain housing for poor people and sought jobs for people with limited skills.

During those exciting first years, Unity House grew simply by responding to whatever need seemed to present itself, from collecting and distributing food and furniture to providing shelter for victims of domestic violence.

In 2013 Unity House moved to its present location:  a community resource center called The Front Door at 2431 Sixth Ave. Consolidating many services under one roof has allowed for greater programming that serves more people while, for the first time, offering space for the community.  The Unity Sunshine Program and the Domestic Violence Services Program remain in their existing locations, with liaison staff available at The Front Door.

Since its inception in 1971, Unity House has grown to meet the increasing needs of those living in Rensselaer County and surrounding communities. Providing crisis intervention, advocacy, skills teaching, information, resources, encouragement and support, Unity House continues to help disadvantaged people lead productive and healthy lives.

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