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Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2011

Each year, the week prior to Thanksgiving is recognized as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a time to promote education, awareness, and action about hunger and homelessness.

This year, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is November 12 – 20, 2011.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2010 annual report to Congress, each night there are approximately 770,000 people in the United States who are homeless. The U.S. Department of Education reports that there are an additional 700,000 children who do not have a place to call home and go to bed hungry each night. Three and a half million Americans will experience homelessness this year, including many United States military veterans.

To help raise awareness, Room at the Inn has asked nine pastors from our night sites to write a prayer for each day of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The prayers will be sent out by email and will be posted on our website. In the spirit of thanks and giving, please take a moment each day that week to read and reflect on the prayers.

Room at the Inn is one of only three emergency shelter providers in the St. Louis County Continuum of Care. Over the past fiscal year, we sheltered 189 people; 109 of these were adults and 80 were children. The outcomes of our Client Self-Reliance Program last year included 100% of clients undertaking at least two activities designed to break their cycle of homelessness (i.e., budgeting classes, group support and employment searches), 48 clients were ready for sustainable housing and were placed into permanent or transitional housing.

Room at the Inn is making a difference and so can you. There are many ways you can help the homeless in your community: through prayer, ministry, offering financial support, advocating for homelessness issues and volunteering. Please visit our website to find out about our many volunteer opportunities. In honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness, please prayerfully consider how you might help end hunger and homelessness.

2010-2011 Annual Report Released

Room at the Inn’s report of activities for fiscal year 2010-11 is now available.

Click Room Annual Report 2010-11 to view.

Ready for a Change

“It was time to stop putting myself first and put my kids first,” says Connie McClain.

This is Connie’s third stay at Room at the Inn. Her first time was in 2008, when she was pregnant with her daughter, but she decided to leave. The second time was in 2010, but she wasn’t ready to make the changes she needed in her life to successfully work through the program. Connie returned to Room at the Inn for a third time on September 23rd, this time with a new attitude and a determination to succeed.

“I decided to come back to Room at the Inn and do what I needed to do to work through the program,” says Connie. “I did and now my family will be moving into a three bedroom house tomorrow. Thank you, Jesus!”

Angie Hamilton, client coordinator, noticed the change in Connie right away when she came back in September. Now that Connie was ready for housing, Angie helped her qualify for Project Homecoming through Employment Connection. Employment Connection is a nonprofit St. Louis community asset that breaks down barriers to self-sufficiency for individuals with limited opportunities including the homeless, ex-offenders, U.S. veterans, high school dropouts, women on welfare, and at-risk youth. Project Homecoming is funded by a federal grant awarded to Missouri homeless programs.

“Connie is really on the ball this time. She applied for housing on October 21st and was approved the same day,” reports Angie. “Harry Little, housing specialist for Employment Connection, will be her caseworker. He really goes above and beyond for his clients and I know Connie will do well with his support.”

Connie went to see three houses she qualified for and selected a three bedroom with hardwood floors and a nice backyard for her son and daughter. This will be the first house her family has ever lived in and the kids are excited to finally have their own rooms. The house is also located in the same school district where her son is currently enrolled in so he won’t have to change schools.

“It’s like a dream come true,” says Connie with a big smile. “I am so grateful and happy and so are my kids. I can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in our new house!”

Cardinals Fever Spreads at Room at the Inn

The St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series and everyone is celebrating, including Room at the Inn’s clients thanks to a special donation from avid Cardinals fan, Rev. Christopher Comerford.

Father Chris is the Pastor at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Granite City, Ill., home parish of volunteer coordinator Stephanie Turck, CDP. This past week, he donated three Cardinals blankets to Room at the Inn to be given to clients.

“We put everyone’s name in a hat and drew names,” explains Sister Stephanie. “The clients that won the blankets were so excited. One of the winners just wrapped the blanket around himself, sat down and smiled! Later, he took it to the night site. He was just so happy he got it!”

Father Chris also collects Cardinals memorabilia, such as autographed baseballs, and donates them to various charities to use as fundraisers.

“It has to break his heart as a fan to give away some of his collectibles, but the money such items bring in will help so many people that he loves to do it,” says Sister Stephanie.

Father Chris recently donated tee-shirts for a Cardinals quilt that is being created for Room at the Inn’s fourth annual Breakfast with the INN Crowd oral auction. The idea started when Margaret Mertens, CDP showed Development Director Ana Schulz a photo of a Cardinals quilt her sister quilted from the creation and designs of the ladies in her parish.

“I immediately sent the photo to our Breakfast Committee and asked if anyone knew of a quilting group willing to take on such a project for us,” says Ana. “Committee member Gary Gray responded that the quilting ladies of his congregation, Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, Mo., might be interested. Lucky for us, they were!”

The quilting club the ladies belonged to had not met for several years but when they saw the photo, they regrouped for Room at the Inn to create the Cardinals quilt.

“They aren’t even baseball fans!” adds Ana. “But they are having so much fun they are already planning a second Cardinals quilt for us for next year.”

We thank Father Chris and the quilting ladies of Eliot Unitarian Chapel for donating their time, talent and treasure to help our clients! Go Cards!

Project Linus Provides Comfort to Children

For a child, sometimes a warm blanket is all they need to feel comfort and secure.

That basic need is the idea behind Project Linus, an organization that donates new, handmade and washable blankets to children’s hospitals and shelters. Myra Moscowitz runs the local chapter of the Bloomington, Ill.-based nonprofit and became a full time volunteer for Project Linus in 2008. Volunteer Coordinator Sister Stephanie Turck, CDP recently met Myra at the Shabbat Service at Central Reform Congregation (CRC), a Room at the Inn night site.

“I was at CRC that day to present them with their one-year anniversary thank you,” explains Sister Stephanie. “I was sitting next to Myra and her husband during the service. Afterwards, Myra leaned over and told me about Project Linus and asked if Room at the Inn would like to have some blankets. I assured her we would.”

The following week, Room at the Inn received a donation of 36 blankets from Project Linus.  Each blanket is lovingly hand quilted, crocheted, knitted or sewn by a volunteer “blanketeer” and will be given to our youngest clients.

There are more than 300 “blanketeers” throughout the St. Louis area and Myra says that number grows every day. Project Linus receives donations from school groups, congregations, fraternities, Scouting troops and other organizations. Because of that generosity, Project Linus donated over 200 blankets to Joplin, Mo., following the devastating tornadoes by working with various local organizations.

“Project Linus is truly committed to making children feel comfort and secure in their time of need. Such a simple thing like a blanket can make a big difference to a child,” says Myra. “It is something that is theirs that won’t be taken away and they can hug.”

February 18, 2012 is National Make-a-Blanket Day. You can join Myra at the County Library that day to make a blanket for Project Linus. For more information, please visit www.projectlinus.org, click on chapter listings, Missouri and St. Louis/St. Charles Chapter.

“It’s a great event for families and kids,” says Myra. “Everyone is welcome!”

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