For thousands of low-income or jobless individuals who are homeless or on the brink of losing the roof over their heads, local nonprofit shelters and organizations provide a bridge to a brighter future. “Many families view us as their home,” notes Scott Gee, executive director of Haven of Grace.
Haven of Grace
Each year, more than 30 pregnant women and 40 children rely on Haven of Grace as a safety net during a critical time. Founded 25 years ago as an outreach center for St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ladue, Haven of Grace provides a homeless shelter and transit housing for pregnant women, ages 18 to 24, and their children. Pregnant women continue to be one of the local populations in greatest need, Gee says. “We don’t necessarily serve large numbers. We look to serve people more in-depth, so we can effect greater change in each client’s life.”
In contrast to emergency shelters, the nonprofit encourages lengthy stays for families in need. Residents can occupy the organization’s main building for up to a year and its apartments for as many as two years. Haven provides families with basic living needs, as well as case management and life courses that cover independent living, parenting skills, physical and emotional health, finance, education and job skills. Haven also partners with area agencies to provide further services, such as parenting education through Nurses for Newborns. “We give young homeless mothers better tools to live and thrive on their own, so they can become better mothers, become more gainfully employed and become more active in the community,” Gee says.
In addition, mothers are required to enroll in a GED program if they have not completed high school. One recent success story, Gee shares, was a resident who completed her GED. “She said that for years she never completed it because no one believed in her and held her to that expectation,” Gee explains. Another resident recently acquired a job after a difficult two-year search, he adds. “We have triumphs of all varieties throughout the year.”
St. Patrick Center
Celebrating its 30-year anniversary, St. Patrick Center is the state’s largest provider of housing, employment and health opportunities for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Through housing, mental and physical health, and employment and financial services, the organization assists more than 9,000 residents each year. “Our clients are not black, white, blue or gray, and you wouldn’t know they are any different from you and I. They’re people,” notes chief executive officer Tom Etling.
While St. Patrick is not a shelter, it offers independent living skills training, including parenting, budgeting and employment training classes, to help people make a positive change in their lives. “We’re about giving a hand up,” Etling says. “When our clients come here, they have to be ready to make a permanent, positive change in their lives.”
St. Patrick runs with a staff of 140, a board of directors led by Jim Kavanaugh and the help of 3,000 volunteers—many of which are LN readers who annually save the organization $1 million in employee fees, Etling notes.
The nonprofit’s biggest annual fundraiser is its Irish Open dinner on June 1 at the Four Seasons, in conjunction with a golf tournament on June 3 at Norwood Hills Country Club. Corporate and individual donations also aid the center’s mission. For example, the St. Louis Rams contribute to end homelessness each time a sack is made at a game through its Sack Homelessness fundraiser.
Gateway180, which began as the Christian Service Center in 1975, is a not-for-profit social service center that annually serves 1,500 residents.
At Gateway180’s shelter, there are 115 beds, and an additional 20 beds during the winter months. “We are always full,” notes interim executive director Kathleen Beach. But she adds that government guidelines soon are changing to allow re-housing of homeless families to take place more quickly. Gateway180 also has seven large transitional units, as well as permanent housing support for seven families. Families typically stay in the organization’s shelter for 27 days, then move on to its transitional and permanent housing support, which includes help paying for rent, utilities, food and medical supplies to give families a fresh start. During their time at the shelter, multiple monthly programs and services help parents and children get back on track. Financial, nutritional, medical and job preparation classes are offered to parents, while tutoring and story time are provided for children.
The organization’s most important program is the monthly 'huddle,' Beach says. The resident mothers and fathers gather to share and celebrate their successes, such as finding a new job or any other positive, recent experience. “This is a great way for our residents to support each other and to feel proud of themselves for their accomplishments,” Beach notes.
Every family who has received help from Gateway 180 is on a positive path to recovery, Beach notes. And Beach says the organization is steadfast in its mission—in conjunction with other area agencies—to end homelessness in St. Louis. “There’s always going to be a time period where some people don’t have a house because of certain circumstances, but if we set our sights high, hopefully as a community we can get closer to that goal.”