GTCF Nonprofit Life: A story from New Connections

History of New Connections

Vision ♦ Mission ♦ Focus ♦ Values

A society where incarceration is rare, brief, and non-recurring..

To interrupt the poverty-to-prison pipeline and promote community reintegration after incarceration.

We promote our mission by offering:

  • Community engagement and education
  • Participatory Defense
  • Pre-release support
  • Supportive shelter for women
  • Family reunification
  • Resource coaching
  • Positive support for individuals of all sexual and gender identities
  • Leadership development with justice impacted people
  • Advocacy and referral services
  • Outreach to justice involved people who are experiencing homelessness
  • Commitment to anti-racist policy and practice

At New Connections we actively invite and honor diversity of people, identities, ideas, cultures and spiritual traditions. We affirm:

  • A person’s right to dignity and self-enhancement
  • Authentic community partnerships
  • Respect, compassion, honesty and humanity
  • Integrity, accountability and professionalism in all that we do
  • Each person’s potential for positive change

Board of Directors

  • Sam Tower, chair
  • Carolyn Stevens, treasurer
  • Blake Kremer, secretary
  • Kim Beckham, trustee
  • Thrett Brown, trustee
  • Lydia Garcia-Dougherty, trustee
  • Rosemary Powers, trustee


New Connections began as an outreach ministry for previously incarcerated people under the auspices of the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Sharing the vision of housing and reentry services for formerly incarcerated women, Father Bill Bichsel, S.J. (Bix) and the Tacoma Catholic Worker Community enlisted volunteers to renovate a house in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood specifically to meet the needs of this program.

2001, Irma’s Place: This newly renovated house (named for its former occupant, Irma Gary) became the primary program of New Connections and the first resident was welcomed in the fall of 2001. Irma’s Place offers a safe, supportive home where women can begin the process of rebuilding their lives after incarceration. The six-bedroom shelter accommodates one resident manager and five women. Residents typically move to more permanent housing within 60-90 days.

2004, Non-profit Status: New Connections was granted 501(c)3 status and amicably dissolved our fiscal sponsorship arrangement to become an independent organization. While maintaining our long time relationships, we resolved to expand our support base to include greater diversity. As a result, those we serve benefit from connections with a broader base of faith-based and secular agencies throughout the county.

2012 & 13, Advocacy & Pierce CPTS Reentry Conference: We joined several other agencies to establish Pierce CPTS (Community Partnership for Transition Services), a coalition of individuals and agencies that leverage resources and promote policies to support community reintegration and success after incarceration. New Connections began serving as the fiscal agent for this group and co-sponsored the 2013 Reentry Conference with Pierce CPTS and Puget Sound University’s Race and Pedagogy Initiative.

2013, Annie’s Cottage: This small, 2-bedroom home was named in honor of Sr. Ann Flagg, CSJP, who began welcoming homeless women at Guadalupe House in 1979. New Connections renovated the interior and welcomed the first guests into the family cottage in 2013. Annie’s Cottage provides shelter for women (with minor children) who face obstacles to housing based on a criminal background.

2015, Jail In-reach, Reentry 101: Pierce County Jail (just 4 blocks away from Irma’s Place) regularly releases people to the streets of Tacoma at 5 am with nowhere to go and no access to phone or transportation services. We began meeting individuals upon release and also small pre-release groups at the jail to offer resource mentoring and printed resource materials specific to Pierce County.

2016, Business Office: Thanks to the generosity of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, our staff and volunteers no longer need to hold meetings and complete computer work in the dining room at Irma’s Place. IPC provides the office space at no charge in support of the work of New Connections.

2017, Homeless Emergency: As affordable housing dwindles, formerly incarcerated people experience increased difficulty in finding permanent housing. The terrible cycle of homelessness and incarceration is entrenched and multi-generational. We partner with the Evergreen Empowerment Group to assist people who face legal barriers to permanent housing at the stability site and in the broader community. New Connections also collaborates with other agencies in a homeless service providers’ group that formed in response to Mayor Strickland’s declaration of a state of emergency. This group merged with others with a similar mission to become the Tacoma Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness. 

2019, Numbers 2 Names: New Connections partnered with N2N and now serves as fiscal sponsor for this new initiative that supports incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people through civic engagement, participatory defense, and grass-roots leadership. N2N also established and produces the annual Unguarded Art event here in Tacoma. Details of the event will be posted on our home-page each year.

Our Neighborhood

About the Hilltop Urban Village: Father Bill Bichsel, S.J. (Bix) worked with many volunteers for decades to gather the land, materials, and other resources needed to develop a community of compassion in the heart of our hilltop neighborhood.

Some of the urban village properties are now under the care of St. Leo Parish. These include the Yellow Apartment Building, the Parsonage, and the Elder House. St Leo Parish (a half block away) has been a treasured ally and continuous supporter of the many initiatives and projects incubated here. It would be difficult to list the many other faith-based organizations, community agencies, businesses, tradespeople, and individuals Bix recruited to create and support this intentional community.

Other properties are under the care of the Tacoma Catholic Worker. These include Guadalupe House, Jean’s House of Peace, Jesuit Volunteer House, Lewis Jones House, Irma’s Place, Annie’s Cottage, the White House, the Green House,  as well as the Community Commons and Guadalupe Gardens. The contemplative Peace Garden – built on a vacant lot between the houses- was completed in 2019.

About the Tacoma Catholic Worker: Founded in 1989, the Tacoma Catholic Worker (TCW) manages the properties described in the paragraph  above and continues the tradition of inviting others to engage in compassionate works.  New Connections operates and maintains Irma’s Place and Annie’s Cottage; however, we are not charged for the use of the properties. In addition to this generous donation, TCW members welcome and support our residents in their return to community life. TCW continues to be an essential partner and ally to New Connections and those we serve.