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Scott and Sara Parks prayed before a meal in their new home May 16 in Hawk Point. The Parks, who moved to the area from Ohio a few years ago, were recently residents of the Bridge of Hope shelter near Troy before moving to the home.
Scott and Sara Parks prayed before a meal in their new home May 16 in Hawk Point. The Parks, who moved to the area from Ohio a few years ago, were recently residents of the Bridge of Hope shelter near Troy before moving to the home.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

A bridge out of homelessness

New Lincoln County facility provides shelter, wraparound support to individuals and families

It wasn’t just one thing that led to Scott and Sara Parks sleeping on the streets in Troy.

Scott and Sara Parks visited with Drake Dennings, left, a resident and resource support specialist at Bridge of Hope, on May 13 at Bridge of Hope shelter near Troy. The Parkses were recently residents of the shelter before moving to their new home.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
There was a complicated family situation. The restaurant where Scott was steadily employed suffered a fire, then water damage, leaving him out of work for more than a month. They had no vehicle; there were some underlying health challenges.

Their savings dried up, and they could no longer afford a motel room.

During the coldest nights of winter, they found their way to the overnight warming shelter at the Lincoln County Health Department. Next door, they heard, a new shelter for people experiencing homelessness was almost completed.

When Bridge of Hope opened in early April, Scott and Sara were the first to move in.

“After we got here, things started getting better,” Scott said.

A safe shelter — and more

Bridge of Hope is a new emergency shelter and crisis stabilization center near Troy, the county seat of mostly rural Lincoln County. It provides short-term housing for men, women and families and connects them with case managers to navigate the next steps. Depending on family makeup, the capacity is between 20 and 24 people.

The facility includes a day-service space with internet, laundry, showers and other resources and a large gathering space used to host classes, trainings and meetings. Lincoln County supplied the land and paid to construct the building using funds received from a national class action settlement with pharmaceutical distributors of opioids.

Scott and Sara Parks talked at the kitchen table of their new home May 16 in Hawk Point. “I feel a lot lighter. Honestly more happy, not as stressed,” Sara said about the feeling of having their own place to live.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Through a partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Bridge of Hope executive director Dan Colbert was hired last fall. The staff includes program manager Jessica Trachte, alongside direct care staff. (Catholic Charities also has a partnership with Life’s River, a new shelter for families in Franklin County.)

While at Bridge of Hope, residents meet regularly with caseworkers from Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service to assess their needs, set goals and track progress. They also help connect them with other necessary resources for stabilization.

“Access to health care, access to mental health care — those are two huge barriers for people we get into the center here,” Colbert said.

People experiencing homelessness are referred to Bridge of Hope through the Tri-County Continuum of Care, which serves Lincoln, Warren and St. Charles counties. According to 2023 data from the Continuum of Care, more than 700 people in Lincoln County that year self-reported as either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service has seen rising numbers of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so, often citing increasing rent costs, said director of development Donna Tobin. As the only emergency shelter serving a general population in Lincoln County, Bridge of Hope has been able to house several chronically homeless individuals known by the care service’s street outreach team.

When Scott and Sara moved to Bridge of Hope, they first felt relief. Connections from the warming center had helped them acquire a van for transportation and shelter from the elements, but sleeping in a bed under a roof is different.

“When I got here, I felt safe. I wasn’t scared anymore,” Sara said. “I was always scared to be inside the van by myself, or even when I was walking on the streets.”

Scott already had a job at Burger King in Troy, and the couple was motivated to work to move to an apartment quickly. With their case worker, Scott and Sara were able to get connected with North East Community Action Corporation housing vouchers (Section 8) and find an available unit in a little over a month.

“It drags you down, being in this situation. So surrounding yourself with positive people really helps. And people here (at Bridge of Hope), you can tell they genuinely care for you,” Sara said.

‘The Lord is calling me’

Bridge of Hope is supported by various faith and community partners, but the idea originated in Sacred Heart Parish in Troy. In early 2021, parishioner Jenna Cappel felt an unexpected but persistent calling from the Lord to help the homeless. She started helping one man she passed on the street, then noticed more and more people in need. She reached out to then-pastor Father Mike Lydon to ask what their parish was doing for the homeless.

“I told him, ‘I think there’s more we need to do — the Lord is calling me to that. What about you?’” she said. “And he felt the same way…As Catholics, we’re called to love life, regardless of where you are, from conception to natural death.”

Father Lydon connected Cappel with Chris Schieffer, president of Sacred Heart’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference and now board president of Bridge of Hope. The effort expanded, bringing in more partners, including Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, Mercy, the Incarnate Word Foundation and Catholic Charities. Bridge of Hope has received funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Scott and Sara Parks kissed as Scott left to start his shift at Burger King on May 9 in Troy. The couple had just finished a tailgate lunch before Scott went to work.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
As a parting gift to Father Lydon last May — he now serves as episcopal vicar for the Southern Vicariate — Sacred Heart School raised about $8,000 to create a chapel inside Bridge of Hope, which now bears Father Lydon’s name. The chapel serves as a quiet space for residents and staff to pray, read the Bible, or take a prayer card or a small wooden cross.

After a tough day soon after the shelter opened, Colbert stopped in the chapel. The late afternoon sunlight streamed through the window onto a Bible, open on a stand near the large cross on the wall. It was open to Romans 8:31:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

New home, new dreams

On May 16, Scott sat in his new living room, putting together a charcoal grill. Grilled teriyaki chicken would soon be on the menu.

Scott and Sara had moved into their new apartment in Hawk Point, several miles west of Troy, just a few days before. Chris Schieffer delivered a bed and some other furniture, courtesy of the Sacred Heart St. Vincent de Paul Society. More donations helped furnish the rest of the apartment, which includes a bedroom, bathroom, living room, dining area and kitchen.

The bed is covered by a colorful, hand-sewn quilt, a departing gift from Bridge of Hope. Quilters from Sacred Heart Parish and other area quilting groups keep Bridge of Hope supplied with quilts for each bed, which residents can take when they leave.

Scott and Sara Parks, former residents of the Bridge of Hope shelter near Troy, met with a Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service case worker May 9 at their new home in Hawk Point.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Scott continues to work at the Burger King in Troy, where he likes his coworkers and feels supported by his manager. Sara has applied for a job at the Dollar General in Hawk Point. Since the couple has one vehicle, they’ll have to coordinate their schedules to allow them both to get to work, but it seems doable, Sara said.

They continue to meet with their caseworker from Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, who helps them with budgeting as they work toward self-sufficiency. Their dream for the future is to save up enough money to buy land to build a house, possibly through Habitat of Humanity, Scott said. Sara wants enough space for a big garden and lots of hummingbird feeders. They’d like to stay in the Troy area.

Everything seems more possible from the comfort of their own home, Sara said. “I’m honestly more clear-headed dealing with everything, because a lot of stress is gone,” she said. “We’re able to deal with certain situations; we’re able to think more clear-headed, and think through things before we just make a snap decision.”

They’ve been back to visit Bridge of Hope a few times, helping out in the garden and visiting the staff and fellow residents. They want other people to know that it’s possible to get out of homelessness, Scott said.

“The other biggest thing: Don’t give up on your faith,” Scott said. “Don’t give up on faith, and don’t give up on God.”

>> Bridge of Hope

To learn more about Bridge of Hope, visit bridgeofhopelc.org or on Facebook and Instagram @bridgeofhopelc.

Need help? Contact the Tri-County Contiuum of Care by calling the United Way helpline, 211.

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