The idea took root back in 1969, in the Summit-University neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. Reverend Harry Maghakian, a pastor at the Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church, was troubled by the poverty and despair of his community. In particular, his big heart went out to the men living in the rooming house behind his church. Most of them had come out of the military experiencing mental illness. To mask their symptoms, they were using drugs and alcohol.
Harry Invites People In
Harry invited them in off the streets to gather around the table in his church basement. Coffee, cookies, and a nonjudgmental space kept the men coming back. Eventually, someone offered Harry a group home as a gift, and the concept he’d been kicking around in his head became real.
Four other pastors and their congregations joined Harry in his mission: George Knieriemen, Jr, of North Como Presbyterian Church, Don Bump, with the Merriam Lexington-Presbyterian Church, David Ling, from the Presbyterian Church of the Way, and Harry Sweitzer, of the Central Presbyterian Church.
The Vision Grows & We Open Our Doors to Help People
This visionary team also included public social workers, Jerrold Winters and Ronald Bourdaghs. That same year, this group of concerned citizens officially became People, Incorporated. (Yes! In the old days, the name included a comma!) They opened Dayton House, for 15 chemically dependent men. It was the very first of what would become a deep and diverse array of programs over the next half-century.
While we have no religious affiliations today, these groups opened the first of what would become a deep and diverse array of 65 innovative, creative, person-first mental health programs that help people lead healthier, happier lives over the next five decades. Today we’re working on shaping these programs into an open care network that closely examines every aspect of how we can help each person in the best way possible.
1969 – The Early Years – Opening Doors
A pastor opens his church basement to a handful of veterans with mental and chemical health issues—and no place to go. We spend the next couple of decades swinging open doors on more than 20 programs, helping people find their healthier, happier selves.
The Middle Years – Open to Everything
It’s the era of “Yes!” We’re burgeoning with ideas on how to build a mental health system where none existed before. Exploration, creation, innovation.
The Recent Years – Open to a 360 Degree View
Bring down the walls. We’ve spent 50 years inventing individual programs for the specific needs of this vulnerable population. Now we’re shaping these programs into one full, open network of care – looking at every aspect of a person’s life and helping where we can.