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. — known to us as 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 year a newly renovated house — named for its former occupant, Irma Gary — became the primary program of New Connections. The first resident was welcomed in the fall of 2001. The six-bedroom shelter accommodates one resident manager and five women. Residents typically move to more permanent housing within 60-90 days.
2004: Nonprofit Status
New Connections was granted 501(c)3 status and amicably dissolved our fiscal sponsorship arrangement to become an independent nonprofit. 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: Coalition Building
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
A 2-bedroom home was renovated and named in honor of Sr. Ann Flagg, CSJP, who began welcoming homeless women at a nearby 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
Pierce County Jail (just 4 blocks away from Irma’s Place) regularly releases people to the streets of Tacoma at 5am 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. 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. We also collaborate with other agencies as part of 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.