The first L’Arche community was founded in 1964 in Trosly-Breuil, a village about 60 miles northeast of Paris. Jean Vanier, son of a former Governor General of Canada, was invited to Trosly and while there, Jean met many people with developmental disabilities who were living in institutions. He was disturbed by the lives they led and upon Pere Thomas' suggestion, he purchased a small house and welcomed two men with developmental disabilities to live with him. He named their home "L’Arche", the French word for "the Ark".
Word spread and young people from various parts of the world came to the community in Trosly to share their life with people with an intellectual disability. Although not anticipated by Jean, some of these people were inspired by the vision of L’Arche to found L’Arche communities in other towns and countries. By 1975, there were 30 communities in France, Canada, India, Africa and Haiti. From a small house in Trosly, L'Arche has expanded to 149 communities in 37 countries around the world.
Although its roots were in the Roman Catholic tradition, L’Arche has become both ecumenical and inter-faith, united in a shared vision and spirit, realized through mutually transforming relationships.
There are 19 L’Arche communities in 19 cities in the United States. L’Arche Atlanta opened its first home in August 2012, with 3 Core Members and 3 assistants sharing life together.