When Rick Miller first began leading a Bible study on Tuesday evenings at a local men’s shelter in Martinsville nearly 12 years ago, he made an effort to show the men how much he cared about them and the situation they were in. In turn, they shared their own life stories. It was evident that they wanted change, they wanted more. They were grateful for the shelter yet that’s all it was – a shelter, not a way out.

“That burden turned into a vision,” Miller said. “That’s when I decided to form a nonprofit.”

He gathered friends and like-minded community members to form Stability First, a place where homeless women who do not meet the criteria for admission into other shelters can have housing and additional support. Magdalene House provides for up to 16 women at a time and has proven successful in its six years in operation. Now, Stability First is preparing to open Foundations, transitional housing for men in Morgan County.

“It’s a blessing to see the community rally around it,” Miller said. “We have tremendous partnerships and great people on the board, and a lot of volunteers. Because they see there is a real need, and we’re not putting a band aid on it.”


Homelessness, mental health, and substance-use disorders aren’t something that can be solved with a quick fix. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were an average of 5,449 known unhoused individuals in the state of Indiana in 2022, with nine percent of those in chronic homelessness.

“We have a ministry philosophy: development over betterment,” Miller said. “Betterment is if a person is hungry, you give them a sandwich and that’s better than where they were before. Sleeping in a shelter is better than sleeping under a bridge. But God made them people with value, and we want them to fully develop. It’s about getting them complete to the best of their abilities. When you’re hungry, it is easy to go to a soup kitchen, but I don’t want the same people in a soup kitchen 10 years from now. Sometimes we get mixed up in the charity world of just giving stuff away and that makes it better for the person, but it doesn’t change anything.”

That’s why Magdalene House provides more than food and shelter. Each resident must make a 90-day commitment, but they can stay up to two years with no fees.

“We have policies and procedures in place but we know that each woman is an individual,” said Celli Dugger, administrator at Magdalene House. “She’s coming from a different place, has different ideas about things. She’s going to lead her treatment plan. We’re going to ask her what her goals are and set up that treatment plan based on her needs and her goals.”

Residents are required to meet with a therapist to address any trauma or mental health issues. They are offered programming including educational opportunities, job readiness skills, health and wellness education, addiction recovery programming, spiritual guidance and more.

Magdalene House works with the Department of Correctional Services and Criminal Justice in Morgan, Marian, Johnson, and Hendricks Counties. Dugger said the ideal path would be for a woman to come to Magdalene House immediately after being incarcerated. This way she could have a slow reentry into the community as opposed to returning to the same place with the same habits that led to their situation.

The building has its main, shared living quarters along with four spacious bedrooms, each with four beds. Those 16 beds are currently full with a waiting list. Each resident gets their own mailbox. Since the rooms are shared, there is a quiet room for them to make phone calls. While there is no rent and they are not required to get a job within a certain time frame, once they do have employment there is a cost share.

Most of the women average a six-month stay. The longer they stay, the more support they receive, skills they have and the longer they will have stayed in therapy. Once they leave, Magdalene house does not instantly discharge them. They can come back, and many times do.

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