Our History

Shalom House began in 1972 with one man’s belief that there had to be a safe, caring place where people with mental illness could live in our community. Having watched his brother Torsten’s painful journey through various family member homes to mental hospitals and shelters, Birger Johnson, one of Shalom House’s founders, dreamed of creating “a place halfway between.” And so, with the help of Thor and Connie Korda, friends, churches and Governor Curtis, Shalom House was opened on High Street in Portland in 1972. Although Torsten had never seen Shalom House (he lived in Los Angeles), his experience with mental illness helped create a safe place for others to live.

Change and choice have always driven Shalom House.

In the late 1960’s thousands of patients with mental illness were released from hospitals during the deinstitutionalization movement and forced to fend for themselves in unprepared and often unwelcoming communities. With the creation of Shalom House, people with mental illness were offered a halfway house to ease the transition from hospital to independent living.

We’ve grown from one house with 15 beds to an organization that offers comprehensive services and a range of affordable housing options.

And as we’ve grown, we’ve changed to meet the changing needs of our clients. We learned that stable, long-term housing with flexible support is the key to recovery. We no longer just operate halfway houses, but offer a wide range of affordable, decent housing choices – independent apartments, group homes, rooming houses – with varying levels of assistance depending upon the needs of each client.

The original Shalom House was renamed to Brannigan House in 2002 in honor then Executive Director Joseph Brannigan, who has since passed.