The Dana, The Phoenix and the Unfolding Soul

"The Dana, The Phoenix and the Unfolding Soul"
Endowment Recognition designed by Jan Brown Checoo


Our Mission

Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home. Security means a housing environment where residents' personal safety is a priority. Dignity means a housing environment that allows residents to develop personal, social, and economic strengths. And community is a regular, predictable housing environment that offers a sense of family, while affirming the individual.

We achieve our mission by maintaining 134 units of permanent supportive housing and 16 units of transitional housing in 6 buildings in Over-the-Rhine. Our model of housing is based on the belief that by addressing the root causes of homelessness, we can help an individual break the cycle of homelessness once he or she leaves Tender Mercies. We accomplish our goals by providing an array of supportive services coupled with housing.


Click the categories below to learn more about Tender Mercies history, purpose, and results.

Our History

Tender Mercies was founded in 1985 by three clergymen working among the homeless in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati. Their work was making them increasingly aware of the plight of the homeless mentally ill. The policy of deinstitutionalization, which had reduced the number of psychiatric beds in Hamilton County from 4,000 to 400, held out the promise that people with chronic mental illness would be able to live independently in the wider community. However, the community was ill equipped to deal with their ongoing needs. Hundreds were ending up on the streets. The mission of Tender Mercies, as established by the founders and which remains the same today is: Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.

Fr. Chris Hall, who would become Tender Mercies' first director, was working with two women who had been released from Rollman's Psychiatric Institute with nothing but cab fare to the Drop Inn Center, a shelter for the homeless. Through Fr. Chris' efforts these women found housing in an apartment building on Race Street. He helped them apply for social security benefits, receive assistance with income management and secure ongoing support in coping with their mental illness. But despite his efforts to help these women put their lives together, tragedy struck. Within two months, in their own apartments, one of the women was brutally raped and the other murdered.

In the face of these violent acts, Fr. Chris and two other clergymen, Randy La Fond and Edward Slater, deliberated and responded. They met with the owner of the building where these women had lived. The property owner agreed to allow them to manage the building and, through attrition, the Race Street property soon became the permanent home for 12 previously homeless women with histories of chronic mental illness. It was the beginning of Tender Mercies, Inc.

Our Purpose

The purpose of Tender Mercies is to provide housing and supportive services for homeless adults with the histories of severe mental illness. Our permanent supportive housing model addresses the root causes of homelessness, thereby preventing a return to the streets for our region's most vulnerable persons.

As a solution for homelessness, our supportive housing model addresses two key problems:

  • Without housing, there is no basis from which to mitigate the factors which lead to homelessness.
  • Without supportive services, a resident is likely to regress for the reasons that led to their loss of housing in the first place.
  • To help our residents improve their quality of life, we provide security 24 hours a day 365 days a year, medication monitoring, meals, laundry, assistance with benefits/income/vocational readiness, job training, computer training, GED/literacy building, living skills (hygiene, budgeting, appointment scheduling), counseling, and symptom management.

Our Results

We measure success in terms of residential tenure and improving our resident's quality of life. In 2013, we achieved the following:

  • 67% of residents moved out of Tender Mercies into community-based independent living with increased income.
  • 85% of individuals who entered the program actively participated in the process of obtaining mainstream government entitlements (such as SSI, Medicaid, and Food Stamps) wihthin 3 months of their move-in.
  • 86% of residents in permanent supportive housing maintained housing arrangements at Tender Mercies for at least 12 months.

In 2013, Tender Mercies served 220 residents with permanent and transitional supportive housing, conducted 153 resident activities including 32 outings and assisted 146 residents with income. Volunteers prepared and served 96,543 individual meals and gave approximately 104,300 hours of their time.

In addition, Tender Mercies is also cost effective for Hamilton County. One night at Tender Mercies costs about $40 per resident; jail is closer to $80, and a psychiatrist hospital close to $500 per day.