A Center of Hope in the City

The Birth of Samaritan House - February, 1982

Samaritan House - Denver, Colorado

Samaritan House - Denver, Colorado

The idea for what was to become Samaritan House arrived in Denver on the leading edge of an arctic cold front in February of 1982. Bitter cold already had a tight grip on the city and the National Weather Service warned that a new and “extremely dangerous storm” was moving into the state.

Father C.B. Woodrich, 1923 - 1991, blunt-spoken pastor of Denver’s downtown Holy Ghost Church and executive editor of the Denver Catholic Register, was having lunch with a friend. They ate huddled in their winter coats, the heat from the kitchen and furnace unable to keep the persistent cold outside. “I think”, said Father Woodrich to his lunch companion, “I’ll open the church tonight.

The decision came later that afternoon. “It was about 10 below,” Father Woodrich recalled. “It was the second or third day of the cold spell. I remember sitting right here at this desk and looking out the window. I called the parish about four in the afternoon and I said, ‘Just leave the church open tonight. Turn on the lights and turn up the heat.’” 
Word got around. The following night 450 showed up, and Father Woodrich pledged that the church doors would remain unlocked at night for as long as the cold temperatures continued. Father Woodrich said, “By the third day my staff thought I was insane, it was traumatically beautiful. People were laying down two to three in a pew, on the floor, up on the altar. It became the greatest event Holy Ghost Church had ever witnessed."

The open door policy continued until the spring thaw arrived and things began to warm up, with the church feeding 400-500 every night, plus breakfast. It became an unexpected media event. Offers of support, letters and donations poured in. The search began for a more adequate facility to serve the city’s homeless.