The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet began with six women meeting in a small kitchen in LePuy, France, 1650. These six women had a common desire to grow in their love of God and serve the unmet needs of the desperately poor people in the city around them, whom they came to call their “dear neighbors.” These women with the spiritual direction of a Jesus priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, formed the first community of Sisters of St. Joseph. The sisters lived simply and openly among the people, rather than within cloistered walls as was the norm of religious women of that time.
As Sisters of St. Joseph in the 21st century, we continue to respond to the unmet and critical needs of our contemporary society and world. Our mission and vision, informed by a deep and pervasive love of God and neighbor without distinction, move us always toward ways to respond, in a spirit of unifying, reconciling love, to the needs of our local communities, the call of the Church, the people of God, and the challenges of the global community within which we live.
How Did Circle the City Start?
Sister Adele O’Sullivan, CSJ, MD, entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1968. After an initial career as a pharmacist, both Sister Adele and her community recognized significant opportunities to serve the poor through the healthcare system, and Sister Adele was sent to the University of Arizona, where she earned her MD in 1984.
Dr. O’Sullivan was working–quite happily, as she remembers–at a small family health center in El Mirage in 1996 when she was contacted by Maricopa County’s Health Care for the Homeless program.
“I received a call one day that the county needed a doctor. Since my community trained me to become a physician to care for the poor, I took the job and my life has not been the same,” she says.
During her years of providing primary health care to local homeless individuals, Sister Adele remembers that the learning curve was steep. She learned not to take even the littlest things for granted when caring for this population.
For instance, there wasn’t a way for a patient experiencing homelessness to easily or hygienically clean and change the dressing on an open wound. She also couldn’t assume that a patient living on the streets had food to accompany necessary medications or was getting enough rest. She found that medication management was virtually impossible for patients with poor vision and a lack of corrective eyewear. Even when patients could manage their own medications, there was the constant challenge of safely storing them at night.
Because of these challenges, new medical complications would often present before others could be fully resolved, resulting in a recurring cycle of health problems that made it virtually impossible for patients to heal, much less escape from homelessness.
From donations that Sister Adele kept in a shoebox, over the years Circle the City has grown into a nationally recognized healthcare organization that serves more than 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness across Maricopa County.
Circle the City Today
Circle the City continues to serve the needs of men, women and children experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County.
In 2012, the organization opened its medical respite, to serve people experiencing homelessness with serious needs that can’t be met on the streets or in a shelter, like having a place to recuperate during chemotherapy or receive physical therapy following an accident or surgery.
In 2015, The Parsons Family Health Center at Circle the City opened. It offers primary care providers, case managers, mental-health and substance-abuse therapists, psychiatric evaluations and nutritional consultations. It was funded by a $2 million grant from the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.
In 2018, Circle the City opened a new medical respite center. With a 50-bed facility, people experiencing homelessness and medical concerns can heal, rest in safety and peace, and get treatment from onsite doctors. The facility is founded on the concept that “Everyone deserves a time and place to heal.”