The STELLA MARIS DETOX CENTER, an alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation center at 1320 Washington Ave., was founded on 10 May 1948. Several people, led by Fr. Otis S. Winchester, assistant pastor at ST. MALACHI'S CHURCH, began the project as a home for homeless alcoholics. The facility was named Stella Maris, the Latin for "Star of the Sea," in honor of the Mother of God. First located in rented quarters at 1306 Winslow Ave., Stella Maris broke ground in Oct. 1953 for a new 2-story building on Washington Ave. The home was nonsectarian and not connected with CATHOLIC CHARITIES CORP. or directly affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous. By 1968 the facility had 2 buildings, a hospital, and a dormitory for 73 men; by 1981 it had grown to 3 buildings.
Donations and the sale of furniture renovated by residents funded Stella Maris in its early years. Described as "ruggedly individualistic," the home insisted on individual responsibility in rehabilitation and refused to take advantage of government grants. In 1981 Stella Maris, operating on a monthly budget of $35,000, renovated its detoxification center to become certified for insurance payments. By 1989 Stella Maris offered in-patient treatment for both alcohol and drug addiction, including detoxification, counseling, aftercare, and job referrals, and operated a halfway house for former addicts and a retail store selling refurbished items. In 1993 the center initiated a $600,000 renovation project for its main building, with plans to similarly renovate the men's halfway house in 1995-96. Margaret Rocke served as executive director in 1995.