In 1985, Key West native Elmira Leto, founder of Samuel’s House, had a calling to minister to women in jail and as they transitioned from incarceration. In 1996, she determined there was a need to assist all women that had found themselves homeless for various reasons such as substance abuse, domestic violence, loss of employment, incarceration, mental and physical illness and other traumatic life events. Elmira retired from her small business and led the effort to create Samuel’s House.
Elmira founded Samuel’s House, Inc. in early August of 1999 with a conviction to provide a second chance to displaced women and women with children by providing them with shelter and other necessary emergency/short-term shelter services. Sixteen concerned citizens took a leap of faith, incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, formed a Board of Directors and opened the doors of the Samuel’s House Mary Spottswood Women’s Center on October 1, 1999. Mary Spottswood, the Center’s namesake known as “Miss Mary”, was a pillar of the community, a Samuel’s House role model and was comfortable with people from all walks of life. Her giving ways and caring nature always made everyone feel loved, special and important.
In June 2007, Samuel’s House opened the sixteen-bed long-term housing facility, Kathy’s Hope, for women in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, those who have been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders and women wishing a supportive environment. Kathy’s Hope was named for Kathy W., a firefighter that gave of herself to her community through her public service but could not control her addiction to alcohol which eventually took her life.
Casa de Meredith, named in loving memory for Meredith Higgs, opened in December of 2010. Consisting of two efficiency and seven 2-bedroom apartments, Casa de Meredith offers truly affordable, structured and supportive permanent housing opportunities for women, women with children, men with children and intact families. In 2012, the More Than Three permanent housing four-bedroom apartment was established to house families having three or more children.
Samuel’s House is an active member of the Monroe County Homeless Services Continuum of Care and is the recipient of funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners, the Klaus Murphy Foundation, other family and private foundations and numerous businesses and individuals who believe in our work being done to assist women, men and families in need of safe shelter.