The First 5 Years and Beyond


Raleigh Times article about Sister Helen Wright’s departure

Sister Helen Wright was the first director of what was known back then as the Urban Ministries Center of Raleigh. From 1981 to 1986, she was at the helm. In that time, she and many volunteers helped more than 10,000 people in crisis, sheltered 1200, and provided healthcare to 400 people in the Open Door Clinic’s first 9 months. At the age of 67, she left the Urban Ministries Center of Raleigh and went back to teaching.

24 years later, our shelter became one exclusively for single women experiencing homelessness and was renamed the Helen Wright Center for Women in her honor.

The issues of homelessness, access to healthcare, and hunger still exist – and persist – here and around the country. Raleigh has come a long way since the days when Sister Wright went around the city bringing awareness to poverty, as pointed out in a 1986 Raleigh Times article on her departure.

We have numerous shelters, food assistance programs, free and charitable clinics, and countless other services. Unfortunately, none of it fully meets the need. It is estimated that there are nearly 160,000 county residents who go hungry, more than 90,000 without insurance, and more than 800 single women each year who need shelter for various reasons.

Sister Helen Wright died in 2012, at the age of 94, at the Notre Dame Long Term Care Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. No doubt she would be proud of the legacy she left behind here at UMWC.

The Helen Wright Center for Women is now the county’s largest shelter for women experiencing homelessness. Beyond offering women a path toward home, we now offer a workforce development program to help them get better jobs.

Our clinic has grown to serve more than 1500 uninsured adults who receive free medication from our onsite pharmacy.

Our food pantry is on the of the county’s largest, currently serving up to 85 cars a day with fresh and frozen foods.

Thank you, Sister Helen Wright, and our generous community for a job well done.