As the frigid cold and extreme weather makes its way throughout the St. Louis region, many people take shelter to find warmth and comfort, but for some, the harsh reality of homelessness makes this time of year especially difficult.
Homelessness continues to be a pervasive issue throughout our community. Homelessness puts people at a higher risk of victimization, substance abuse, mental health issues, and more. With today’s struggling economy, this issue has only gotten worse. United Way 211 is our information and referral helpline, and within the past year, 211counts.org reports that 46% of the requests for help we’ve received have been related to housing and shelter.
Fortunately, 211 is an efficient resource that helps people get access to organizations that help with issues such as this. One of the organizations that serves to help people experiencing homelessness is United Way partner agency, St. Patrick Center.
For over 40 years, St. Patrick Center has focused on creating change in people’s lives by making sure they have access to sustainable housing, employment and healthcare. Their Housing First Initiative works with individuals, businesses, government and other service providers to provide wraparound support to make sure our neighbors are able to secure permanent housing.
CEO of St. Patrick Center, Amanda Laumeyer said one of the keys to addressing the issue of homelessness is moving beyond some of the misconceptions about people who are unhoused.
“There’s a lot of stereotypes that we hear that are very unfortunate; some people believe that this is what this person wants, that they’re lazy, violent, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or not wanting to get the help that they need, and that’s not usually something we find to be true,” said Amanda. “A lot of the reasons someone falls into homelessness is because they don’t have the resources or support they need when they face a crisis. So, losing a job, getting a divorce, a medical issue, or even just family conflict can be factors as to why someone becomes homeless.”
Instead of resorting to cynicism, it is important to find ways to get involved and provide support and assistance to the unhoused. Someone looking to make a meaningful difference can use United Way’s Volunteer Center as a way to serve our neighbors in need. A visit to STLVolunteer.org can help you find an opportunity to volunteer for organizations like St. Patrick Center.
This support from the community gives them the capacity to help people like Barbara, who after she and her fiancé began experiencing severe health issues, soon became at risk of experiencing homelessness. Through her fiancé, a military veteran, she was connected with St. Patrick Center.
There, she was able to receive help with housing assistance as well as a workforce development program called Roots of Success which prepares youth and adults for 100+ environmental jobs and career pathways to improve conditions in their communities and build resilience to climate change. Because of St. Patrick Center, Barbara was able to maintain her housing and get connected to several leads for employment opportunities.
“Truly St. Patrick Center is more than a soup kitchen because there are times that people need more than just a meal,” said Barbara. “People don’t need a handout all the time. Sometimes people need a hand up, meaning they need employment or a bus ticket to get to where they need to go. All of these things are offered, St. Patrick Center gives it to them, all they have to do is ask.”
Helping people get access to essential needs is one of United Way’s main impact areas and it is important to have partnerships with organizations like St. Patrick Center to help us fulfill this commitment to the community.
Amanda said United Way’s funding, support, and the strong bond our two organizations have built through our passion for wanting to make sure all of our neighbors are housed, clothed and fed has strengthened the vitality of the St. Louis region.
“We are very grateful to be a partner of United Way, when we went through COVID and a lot of things were going on, United Way increased their support during a time when we were seeing a loss in funding,” said Amanda. “United Way has stepped up in many ways and said, ‘Hey, we want to make sure you have what you need, and we can work through the outcomes together as a partner,’ and that has been huge for us.”
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