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The meaning behind Casa Venegas

Have you ever wondered how St John of God Health Care’s community services get their names? This Homelessness Week, we explore the beginnings of St John of God Social Outreach’s Casa Venegas and the meaning behind its unusual name.

1 August 2019 

Casa Venegas in Granada, SpainIn 1539 in Granada, Spain, a man named John Cidade was admitted to the Royal Hospital with a psychiatric illness.

It was during his time there that he decided to establish his own hospital for the poor and people with mental health issues who had been abandoned by society.

With no place to live after leaving hospital, John slept rough for a few nights before a respected and wealthy resident, Don Miguel Aviz Venegas, offered him shelter at night in the vestibule of his family home, Casa Venegas (House of Venegas).

This gave John a safe place to sleep and he was grateful for it, but he met many other men and women with no place to stay at night. He felt he could not leave them, sick and weak, crouched in doorways from which they would by evicted by city watchmen.

John strengthened his resolve to provide a hospice for these people, but in the meantime he shared his good fortune with the weakest and sickest people by inviting them to shelter with him in Casa Venegas’ vestibule.

This situation came to an abrupt end when Don Miguel came home one night and found the entrance to his house so crowded with John’s patients that he could not get his horse through his own front door. It was time for John to move on.

John then went to the fish market area, where he slept and helped in a refuge run by some disciples of John of Avila. Not long after, he secured a house of his own in Calle Lucena, where he established his first hospital.

The functions of that first hospital were very broad. In John’s own words:

The house is of general nature and it receives all sicknesses and every class of person.

Today, St John of God Social Outreach’s Casa Venegas service is based in the inner west and south west of Sydney and provides secure accommodation and support to help clients with an enduring mental health condition start their recovery journey.

Our caregivers make regular visits to the services’ 18 independent living homes at seven different locations, supporting them to build confidence, work on their health, build positive connections and ultimately move towards an independent and fulfilling life in their own home in the community.

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