Category Archives: Client Stories

Success with the Help of God and the Staff of Room at the Inn

My name is Brenda, a 47-year-old, black woman, who could not have imagined being homeless.

I’ve worked in the St. Louis community for 10 years as a certified nurse assistant, and 10 years as a customer service representative. When I lost my job, I became homeless, with three girls depending on me as their provider.

The homeless hotline referred me to Room at the Inn, a community-based program which provides emergency shelter for women and families. I was not sure what to expect, since you hear horror stories about shelters, but I had nowhere else to go.

Upon my arrival at Room at the Inn, I met with the site coordinator, named Nicole Spears, a woman with a loving and caring spirit. She showed me around the place and gave me the rules which people at the shelter must follow. She also gave me words of encouragement, which helped us during our time of adjusting to our new surroundings.

The next person I met with was Angela Hamilton, the client coordinator. Her job is to help all the clients with their future housing goals. Let me tell you something about Angela: she’s a very hard worker. She meets with everyone who enters the shelter, and she has resources for each and every client need. With the help of Miss Angela Hamilton, I have been blessed with housing for my family.

While at the shelter, I was also blessed to meet Sister Joann Nowak, OSF, the director of the shelter and Sister Stephanie Turck, CDP, the volunteer coordinator. Sister Joann has a firm hand and keeps this place together; she is a good listener and a mother to all of us at Room at the Inn. Sister Stephanie is part of the Congregation of Divine Providence, and she has the sweetest spirit I know! She is very good with the children at the shelter, and she is loved by all. She has the softest spoken voice, with words of encouragement, to all who come in contact with her. Sister Stephanie is truly sent to this place by God; she is a blessing to us all!

To all the ladies/men who reside at Room at the Inn, now and in the future, keep your head up and look to the hills from which cometh your help! For all of our help cometh from the Lord…and the staff at Room at the Inn.

My Journey Through Homelessness

As I look at all the experiences that have led me to be homeless, I have no regrets about the decisions I have made.

I am 43 years old. I am educated and a mother of four, a candidate for graduation from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. My studies are in the field of criminology and criminal justice, with a minor in social work. When I tell people I am homeless, they ask me how I became homeless.

This is not my first time being homeless. Well over 15 years ago, at the beginning of this journey, I was homeless. I had just ended a 10-year cocaine addiction and a situation that included domestic violence and rape. A decade of horrible decisions left me physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually bankrupt. It was at that time that my footsteps were ordered in another direction. I entered a shelter in Memphis, Tennessee to begin my way back to sanity.

After several years of recovery, I decided to educate myself, because I knew knowledge was power. I wanted power to assist organizations in leading my fellow sisters, whom I left on the streets, on the path to Christ and sanity.

I finally came to St. Louis to be educated in social work and criminology at the University of Missouri. I started at Florissant Valley Community College, where I obtained my Associate in Applied Science degree in Human Services. It was there that I was required to do practicum hours, to gain experience in my field. I had no idea where I would begin to look for a site that I would be comfortable in.

One day a Catholic Nun by the name of Sister Judy Corrigan stopped by the Florissant Valley campus to lead a workshop for volunteer workers for a homeless shelter called Room at the Inn. This was a dream come true, because all through my journey my continued prayer has been “Lord if you allow me to make it out I will dedicate my life to helping people who chose the same ugly paths I took. Although it was rough, it was those paths of my journey that led me to you, Lord.”

I decided to volunteer at Room at the Inn. I learned a lot about providing services. It was at this place I learned the importance of patience; I also learned critical listening skills, acceptance, and diversity competence. This volunteer opportunity set ablaze an undying fire of service in my heart.

Early in the month of April, my grown sons moved out of my house. On the 18th of April I lost my job, and my lease was up on April 31, 2009, so I was in danger of losing my housing. So in less than thirty days I had no one else to worry about but me: my sons were gone, I lost my job, and I lost my housing. At first I have to admit that I was sick about these changes, but then it was kind of funny when you look at the path I have been placed on. I did not know what to do but pray. I heard so clearly in my prayer “go to Room at the Inn.” I called the Homeless Hotline and asked if any space was available, and I was accepted, after my referral from the Housing Resource Center.

This time being a resident made the difference. In this walk I prayed that I would obtain the information and experience that would lead me to complete my purpose in life, which is to assist my fellow homeless sisters and their children. It is not by chance all these changes in my life have transpired in less than 30 days. My God is preparing me for a new journey in which Room at the Inn is teaching me through experience to be efficient and effective in providing services to many different people.

It was many years in between being in a shelter, so I guess God wanted me to do some ground work which would allow me to see the new face of homelessness, people who are just like me. My period of homelessness served as research, that will allow me the opportunity to offer intentional types of services to assisting other homeless women to become self sufficient again.

I am close to completing my course work at UMSL, so I will have the credentials to enter the field of providing services to homeless women and children. I am excited because I have accepted the position of chief operational officer for a housing foundation in the city of St Louis. I have learned from the example of the staff at Room at the Inn. My experience as a client at Room at the Inn has helped me master attending skills and critical listening skills. I’ve also recognized the need for genuine love and compassion. For this I will be ever so grateful!

(Editor’s note: Amelia’s story has been shortened from its original length. While at Room at the Inn, Amelia was referred to housing sources and job opportunities. She received services from our network including physical and mental health care, domestic violence counseling and budgeting classes. Staff and volunteers were flexible so that Amelia could attend daily meetings to prepare for her new job. She also received gas vouchers that allowed her to drive to those meetings. Upon her departure, Amelia received rental assistance from our Homelessness Prevention Program fund.)

Genuine Gratitude Means Giving Back

Some people walk away from a helping hand. Others clasp it, then reach out to someone else with the other! Lesly is a giver!

“When I realized I had to enter a shelter, I was nervous and uncomfortable, but it was a great experience. I’ve grown spiritually,” said Lesly Jackson, a former Room at the Inn client. Lesly entered the shelter in November 2005 and stayed for four months. Today, she is independent, with her own apartment. She also serves on the program board of Room at the Inn. “I have a great deal of respect for the homeless now and for people who work in the shelter,” she says.

Lesly’s stay at Room at the Inn was longer than most, in part because she was “working her plan” and getting close to attaining permanent housing. “They assisted me with resources to help me get back on my feet,” she said. Lesly completed a six-week housing class to obtain a Section 8 voucher, which helped her into her first apartment upon leaving the shelter. Room at the Inn also helped Lesly pay her past utility bills – a common hurdle to finding a new place to live. The bills were paid through the shelter’s homelessness prevention program. Lesly also notes that Room at the Inn got her to a health clinic and helped her with medications.

Lesly is working, financially stable and moving forward with her life. She serves on Room at the Inn’s program board because “it gives me an opportunity to give back and be of service.” She wants to be able to help others the way Room at the Inn helped her.

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