Sultana Davis is safe and healthy in her apartment just weeks after being homeless.
St. Patrick Center, a Catholic Charities agency, helped her become housed. Now, laid off from her job in the hospitality industry, Davis would be at risk of becoming homeless if not for continued help from St. Patrick Center.
Davis is fortunate to have a home at a time when people are being told to stay home to stem the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. She is a graduate of the St. Patrick’s Center Women’s Night Program, where she stayed about a month.
“I was working, but had a hard time finding a place,” Davis said, noting that she had been evicted from her residence.
St. Patrick Center “helped me out a lot. It’s an awesome program. It made me more self-sufficient. I learned so much,” Davis said.
St. Patrick Center assists with permanent housing and support services through Housing First programs. Support services include case management, employment and behavioral health. St. Patrick Center paid for her security deposit and initial rent, gradually decreasing assistance as she becomes self-sufficient. But, she’s still a client of the center and due to her job loss, she’s considered at risk of homelessness and qualifies for additional assistance.
Davis received furnishings, supplies and follow-up care. She is looking for other work, perhaps something temporary until the economy recovers. In the meantime, she has help from St. Patrick Center and is seeking unemployment pay. “I’ve been through worse than this,” she said. “I believe as long as God knows you’re doing good, He’s going to come to you.”
Homelessness continues in St. Louis, however. St. Patrick Center is continuing its work, though its main building Downtown was shuttered the week of April 6 for a deep cleaning due to a COVID-19 exposure. The center wasn’t able to provide meal service and unable to accept food donations. But plans were to reopen after Easter. And the center still was serving clients at its other sites and remotely.
St. Patrick Center made several changes to enforce social distancing and keep clients safe. Those changes include:
• Case management for people who are housed is being handled over the phone or through video. Group sessions and meetings have been cancelled.
• Hand sanitizer and soap are prominent.
• The Shamrock Club continues, with people spread out through the building.
• A night shelter for 20 women at St. Patrick Center is following social distancing guidelines, including with the roll-away cots.
• Emergency operation plans are in effect at the center as well as the apartment programs: Rosati Place, Freedom Place (for veterans) and the St. Louis Stamping Lofts.
• The center is only accepting monetary and food donations (see list in sidebar).
• The casserole program continues.
“We’re considered an essential service,” said Kelly Peach, senior director of communications at St. Patrick Center. “The mayor and everybody says stay home. But what does that mean when you don’t have a home?”
Anthony D’Agostino, St. Patrick Center CEO, said that “while the pandemic is having a massive impact on the center’s finances, social systems and interactions, the impact on people experiencing homelessness is far greater. Access to adequate housing, health care and other essential services has dwindled in a system overwhelmed by this changing pandemic. At a time when vulnerable populations need our help the most, we are instructed to distance ourselves and become more inclined to hoard resources.”
With layoffs due to business shutdowns, “we do believe there is going to be great need,” Peach said. “And it will be harder for people to donate because they’re taking a hit financially.”
Rental and utility assistance will be a priority to keep people in housing and prevent homelessness. “We have some (funds), but it’s going quickly because people are in need now,” Peach said. “It’s hard on everyone, but it’s especially hard on someone trying to come out of homelessness.”
Everyone is being patient and understanding, Peach said. “Maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe more people will come to the table of love and acceptance and helping one another.”
Staff members are relying on their strong faith to get through it, she said. She’s turning to her relationship with God, suggesting that “if we pray to Him and ask His help in getting through this, we can come out on the other side and be better people. The world was spinning out of control in many ways, and maybe we just needed to stop and take note of what’s really important, which is our relationship with the Lord and our relationships with each other.”
>> Catholic Charities efforts
The eight Catholic Charities of St. Louis agencies are implementing strategies and protocols to safely serve current and future clients. The Catholic Charities central office team is supporting these efforts and developing more ways to reach out to people in need, including those who may be needing assistance for the first time.
Catholic Charities has:
• Provided $20,000 in gift cards to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (to distribute through their food pantries in areas of greatest need.
• Contributed $10,000 to St. Louis Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, which will be distributed to area nonprofits directly serving people impacted by coronavirus-related hardship.
• Together with The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities is co-leading a St. Louis County Regional Response Group, bringing together more than a dozen area nonprofit and government agencies to coordinate the efficient distribution of COVID-19 related emergency relief to those most in need.
You can make donations to help Catholic Charities of St. Louis at www.ccstl.org or by sending a check to Catholic Charities, P.O. Box 952393, St. Louis, MO 63195-2393.
>> Meals for homeless people
Schnucks Markets, Inc. is donating hundreds of sack lunches to St. Vincent DePaul Parish, which serves the St. Louis area’s homeless population. Schnucks’ corporate cafeteria staff began preparing these portable meals starting March 30.
St. Vincent Parish is providing lunch and dinner meals to people who are homeless through its regular lunch window, implementing heightened safety precaution due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Schnucks Markets, Inc. announced March 16 that the company is donating $500,000 to the St. Louis COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, to support those in the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area who are experiencing hardship due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Schnucks annually donates more than $16 million in food to pantries and nonprofits that work to serve those who are experiencing hunger and food insecurity.
St. Vincent staff report that new procedures are more expensive. They are seeking contributions to cover costs. Food donations of specific items are accepted from those who call the parish. For details, visit www.bit.ly/2Jie2Kt.
>> A way to help
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that people stay home during this pandemic, but clients of St. Patrick Center don’t have a place to call home. The Catholic Charities agency is asking people to help with its lunch program bypicking up food for sandwiches and other lunch items. See the full list at www.stpatrickcenter.org/donate.
St. Patrick Center is accepting donations Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at its donation center at the back of its building, 800 N. Tucker Blvd. in Downtown St. Louis. Contact Katie Joseph at [email protected] or (314) 802-1976 for more information.
Monetary donations may be made online at stpatrickcenter.org/donate or to St. Patrick Center, 800 N. Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63101.