Category Archives: News

Parents as Teachers Program Help Clients Encourage Childhood Development

“We reassure the moms that even though they are homeless, what they do with their child can still make a difference in their development,” says Lori Connors.

Lori is a parent educator with Parents at Teachers in the Pattonville school district. She has degrees in both early childhood and elementary education. Lori has been with Parents as Teachers for 21 years.

Parents as Teachers develops curricula that support a parent’s role in promoting school readiness and healthy development of children prenatal to five years old. Their approach is relationship-based and encourages learning experiences that are relevant and customized for the individual needs of each family and child. The program is available through the Pattonville schools to any family within the district at no charge. Parents as Teachers adjusts the way they service Room at the Inn to better accomodate the average family stay at the shelter of 30 days.

“A parent educator is assigned to each family for a four week period so we can establish the same relationship with them as we do for other parents in the district,” explains Lori. “That way, I can assess each family’s needs and put together the right resources for them.”

Lori tries to do a complete developmental screening on each child, including a health screening for vision and hearing. She also addresses any concerns or questions a client might have and gives them a confidential forum to talk about their child and what they can do to help encourage development. Lori shared a recent success story about a Room family.

“A child was about to enter kindergarten and her mother was concerned about her language skills so I did the development screening for her. When it was complete, the child did very well and had high strengths in several areas,” recalls Lori. “It gave the mom comfort and showed her something going well in her life – that her child was indeed ready for school.”

If you would like information about Parents as Teachers, please visit their website We thank Lori and all the parent educators at Parents as Teachers for providing such a valuable resource to our families.

Shelter Nurse Provides Healthcare and a Listening Ear

Mary Ann Signaigo, R.N., works for the St. Louis County Public Health Department and sees Room at the Inn clients once a week.

She screens them for general health, evaluates what their needs are and can provide referrals and resources to healthcare providers. However, Mary Ann feels the most important part of her job is to be a listener.

“Everybody has a story and a lot of the clients don’t have the opportunity to tell it,” says Mary Ann. “They see me as someone safe they can share it with.”

Many of the clients Mary Ann works with haven’t seen a physician in a long time. Dental care and well woman care are two of the most common referrals she makes.  Often times, clients will go off needed medication because they can no longer afford prescriptions. This is something Mary Ann can help with.

“I work out of North County Community Health Center and we have a program set up that if one of our providers writes the prescription, a client can get back on the medication at no cost,” Mary Ann explains. “There is also no cost to see that physician. As the shelter nurse, the physicians give me high priority if I ask for an appointment for one of our clients.”

Julie Blanco, program manager with Co-occuring Disorder Services at Places for People, spoke at our recent Summit on Homelessness on how mental health and homelessness interrelate. For the chronically homeless, there may be underlying, untreated mental health issues that contribute to the cycle of homelessness. The care Mary Ann provides can break that cycle.

She offers this advice to volunteers and donors who wish to help the homeless in St. Louis County.

“When you donate to food pantries, don’t buy junk food. The people that come to the pantries often have diabetes, are hypertensive or have other medical conditions that require special diets. If you can, spend a little more and buy healthy items like low salt soups, fresh vegetables or canned fruit,” says Mary Ann. “Foods like that are better choices for them and, in the long run, will help them get back on their feet.”

Night Site Hosts Annual Fundraiser for Room at the Inn

On Saturday, October 8, 2011, First Presbyterian Church of Ferguson will host their fourteenth annual trivia night to benefit Room at the Inn.

First Presbyterian has been a night site since 1993. Karen Schriefer, who is helping organize the event with fellow Community Ministries Committee member Jamie McDonald, explains how the trivia night got started.

“First Presbyterian is a night site two Sundays each month and we wanted to do something to raise money for Room at the Inn,” says Karen. “And a trivia night is easy to do so we decided to do it!”

The event starts at 7:00 p.m. and runs until approximately 10:00 p.m. at the church, which is located on 401 Darst in Ferguson. Teams of eight per table will be competing against each other. Each table of eight costs $120 (or $15 per person) and snacks and soft drinks are provided. Colleen Price, who purchases a table every year, is already getting her team together.

“I’ve never been at a trivia table that won but I’ve always been at a table that had fun,” says Colleen, then adds. “They also have a wonderful gift basket raffle. It’s just a great night for a great cause.”

The gift baskets are often prepared and donated by other churches and night sites, like Christ Memorial Baptist Church. Although Christ Memorial closed its doors last year, members of the congregation are planning on attending trivia night this year to continue their support of Room at the Inn. Any church or individual willing to help can do so by buying a table, providing a basket or donating a door prize.

“This has been a great fundraiser for Room at the Inn,” says Karen. “With your help, we can make it a success again this year!”

If you have any questions about the trivia night, or would like to reserve a table or make a donation, please contact Karen at 314-522-6842 ( or Jamie at 314-839-1204 ( We hope to see you there!

Room at the Inn’s Summit on Homelessness Engages and Informs

Room at the Inn hosted its first Summit on Homelessness, a panel presentation and discussion, on September 8th at Central Reform Congregation.

More than 60 people were in attendance as expert panelists discussed the current state of homelessness in our area, how Room at the Inn fits in, what needs are most crucial, the effects on children and families and how issues of mental health and homeless interrelate.

Panelists included Karen Wallensak, director of Catholic Charities Housing Resource Center; Lesly Jackson, former client and current board member of Room at the Inn and counselor at Harbor Lights; Mike Lamping, program manager for the Multi-systemic Therapy Program at Places for People; and Julie Blanco, program manager with Co-occuring Disorder Services at Places for People.

“Last year in St. Louis County, there were over 4,500 requests from families and individuals (households) to our hotline. Of the 4,576 households that asked for shelter, only 1,193 actually got in. That’s 26% – only a quarter of the people who were homeless and had no place to go that night got a bed,” Karen said during her presentation. “19% of the families who did get in were at Room at the Inn. You all do a wonderful job of bringing hope to people.”

Lesly gave a moving speech where she described the impact the care and compassion of Room at the Inn’s volunteers and night sites had in her life. Mike and Julie explained how Places for People’s outreach program serves the homeless in St. Louis County with mental illness, addiction and co-occurring disorders.

Following the panelists presentations, there was a question and answer session moderated by Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Moore, senior pastor of Webster Groves Christian Church. During the discussion, the panelists stressed the importance of treating the homeless as individuals and with respect. Their advice for volunteers who interact with the homeless clients is to simply ask them what they are comfortable with and what their needs are. The evening ended with a table talk session where attendees interacted with panelists and each other.

We thank our panelists, moderator and everyone in attendance for making the Summit such a success and for providing valuable information, resources and discussion points that we can implement and share in our mission to help the homeless in our community.

Providing Resources for Room at the Inn Clients

“Whatever I can do, I try to do,” says Emily Ludwig, an outreach worker for Places for People.

Places for People serves the most vulnerable people in our community and is dedicated to providing innovative and effective mental health services. All of Emily’s clients are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. She provides her clients with short-term linkage and crisis intervention, as well as referrals to other agencies in the area.

“I try to take each case on an individual basis and focus on the specific areas a client needs assistance with,” explains Emily. “I can help them find a primary care physician, apply for food stamps or even provide them with bus tickets. Whatever goals they want to pursue, I am here to help.”

New to Places for People, Emily’s prior experience includes working at BJC Behavioral Health on their outreach team and working at St. Vincent de Paul with chronically homeless clients and those with serious mental illness. She soon realized outreach and engagement was her calling and began working on her master’s degree in social work. A full time position opened up at Places for People during her practicum there. Emily immediately applied and was soon hired.

She looks forward to working with Room at the Inn clients and helping them get back on their feet. No task is too small or too big for Emily and she truly enjoys seeing her clients become self-sufficient again. We look forward to Emily’s weekly visits and the resources she can provide to our clients.

For more information on Places for People, please visit their website at

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