Saint Francis Community Services has leased the former convent of the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Wichita.

Saint Francis is readying the 68,000-square-foot building to accommodate an array of early childhood development, independent living, healthcare, and life skills programs for children in foster care, their families, and newly resettled refugees.

The building and operations at 3730 E. Lincoln Drive will be known as Saint Francis at the Mount, and will include community partnerships with Early Head Start and Head Start, among others.

Nearly 40 Sisters of St. Joseph have moved into a recently built 57,000-square-foot center at the south end of the property. The sisters, many of whom are retired teachers, administrators, and nurses, will be active volunteers and mentors in the Saint Francis programs, especially those involving infants and children. Youth in independent living at the Mount may have the opportunity for employment with the congregation.

“We are both humbled and blessed to have this opportunity at the Mount to help us further meet the needs of vulnerable children and families in Wichita,” said the Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, dean and CEO of Saint Francis Community Services. “Through service to others, the spiritual missions of Saint Francis and the Sisters of St. Joseph are intertwined. Both organizations are advocates for systemic changes and tangible measures that improve lives and strengthen family bonds. To enhance the welfare of children and families, there could not be a more perfect union.”

“We are excited about welcoming Saint Francis Community Services and those that they serve to our campus,” said Sr. Marguerite O’Brien, CSJ, of the congregation’s leadership team. “As two organizations committed to serving vulnerable populations and the emerging needs of our world, we see this as a wonderful time of possibilities.”

Saint Francis has begun Phase I of its transition into The Mount and will continue in three phases to be completed by 2021. Existing spaces are being renovated for offices, training areas, on-site daycare, and independent living quarters. In Phase II, space will be dedicated to behavioral health programs, so Saint Francis’ clients may have access to these services all under one roof.

In all, about 50 new staff members will be hired by Saint Francis as programming expands at the Mount.

Specific programs include:

Phase I

  • Independent living for teens and young adults who are about to age out of foster care custody. Saint Francis will provide housing for 20 youth ages 16 and older, and assist them with obtaining a high school diploma or GED, job training, life skills training, and parenting classes.
  • Early Head Start and Head Start will sublease space from Saint Francis at the Mount. Early Head Start will offer services for 15 newborn to 3-year-olds and Head Start will provide services for 20 children, ages 3 to 5, including those in foster care served by Saint Francis.
  • Saint Francis Migration Ministries, which assists in the local resettlement of refugees approved through the U.S. Department of State’s Resettlement Program and is the Wichita affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries. More than 80 refugees were resettled in Wichita last year, largely from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Burma. Saint Francis Migration Ministries helps refugees with housing, food, clothing, furnishings, language skills, access to medical care, and job readiness training during their first 90 days in the community.
  • Saint Francis Community Services’ administrative offices for the Wichita area. Administrative and training facilities from Saint Francis’ 4415 E. Harry office in Wichita have moved to The Mount, freeing up space in the East Harry location to provide additional client services.

Phase II

  • Behavioral healthcare program. Already licensed for the provision of substance-use programs at its facilities in Salina and Kansas City, Saint Francis will seek an additional license for a Wichita program offering outpatient services at the Mount. A licensed psychologist will be hired. Saint Francis also plans to offer telemedicine services.

Phase III

  • Independent living for teens and young adults who have aged out of foster care custody. More than 200 young people who were formerly in foster care are currently homeless in Wichita. Saint Francis is currently working with United Way of the Plains, Wichita Children’s Home, and other nonprofit agencies to obtain a HUD grant in support of this program.“We are on the cusp of building one of the most comprehensive community partnerships in the country, all with the focus on children and families,” Dean Smith said. “We could not do this without the generous support of the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and we sincerely hope the five-year lease we have begun turns into an ongoing commitment for years to come. We are all dedicated to making the Mount a community success story, as well as a national model that demonstrates how shared resources and missions can make a remarkable difference in a community.”

Adapted from an announcement by Saint Francis Community Services

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