Category Archives: Client Stories

A Whole New Perspective

“Room at the Inn works. Bottom line. It works. I am living proof of that,” says Latasha Wilford. “So many doors have been opened for me and I am grateful. I have received far more that what I needed here.”

A few months ago, Latasha was pulled over by the cops. Much to her surprise, she was arrested for outstanding traffic violations she did not commit. Latasha was the victim of identity theft and during her seven days in jail, she was able to sort out the details of what happened with the police. Eventually, her name was cleared and her driver’s license returned but in the process, Latasha lost her job. Because she no longer could pay her portion of the rent, she called the St. Louis County Homeless Hotline.

“I remember the person at the hotline telling me I would be traveling to and sleeping in different churches every night,” recalls Latasha. “After experiencing Room’s program, this is what I would tell a caller … ‘There is an opening at Room at the Inn. You will experience some of the most unique and amazing congregations in St. Louis each night. You will have an opportunity to spend the evening with warm and caring volunteers as you transition yourself back to stability.’”

By working through Room’s program, Latasha was recently hired by American Income Life Insurance Company. She will be selling life insurance products, annuities and various group policies.

“We often assist our clients with utility payments, deposits or application fees. For Latasha, we are assisting her with the fees for her online training, testing and insurance licensing,” explains Program Director Valorie Ferlis. “We feel this is a good investment to stabilize her situation and provide for reliable income moving forward.”

Latasha is grateful to Room for helping her acquire the necessary licensing for her new job and is already putting what she has learned to use.

“I was studying at one of the night sites and a volunteer came to sit with me. He told me he was concerned about his term insurance coverage. We talked and I shared with him what I had learned about term insurance from my class,” says Latasha. “Because Room is helping me get my license, I want to make sure everything I do with my license helps someone, even if they are not my customer.”

Latasha feels the nightly interactions between the clients and volunteers are a very important component of Room’s program and to her success.

“I have experienced compassion from complete strangers every night. In addition to that, I have been assisted, supported and helped every way that I could be helped in my situation. Trust me, becoming homeless certainly wasn’t in my five year plan,” says Latasha. “It is very easy to be mad at the world and want to blame something or someone. I pray that anyone who comes to Room opens their mind up enough to receive what is being given here. If you do, you will get far more than a job or housing. I am leaving empowered. I am leaving renewed. I am leaving with a whole new perspective on how I can pay it forward one day. My one year goal is I want to be back at Room … volunteering!”

Client Moves to Transitional Housing

Nineteen-year-old Dwanna Washington arrived at Room at the Inn on March 8 and is leaving April 11.

“My family kicked me out of the house when my son, E.J., was just two months old. I stayed with my boyfriend at an Economy Inn for about two months until we could no longer afford it,” recalls Dwanna.  “During those months, I kept calling the homeless hotline and on March 8, there was an opening at Room and my son and I came here.”

When Dwanna arrived at Room, she was frightened and confused.  Client Coordinator, Angela Hamilton talked with Dwanna about her goals and helped her to identify some of the steps she needed to take in order to provide for E. J. and herself.  Dwanna was determined to be out of Room’s program in 30 days. When Angela found out that Almost Home had an opening, she moved swiftly to work with Dwanna and to make a referral for her.

Almost Home is a local program that focuses on inspiring teen moms to create a better life for themselves and their children. Young mothers, teamed with professional staff, are able to develop the emotional, social, economic, academic and life skills that enable these young mothers to become self-sufficient, responsible adults and parents to their children. Almost Home’s program is unique in that they provide assistance and support for two years or more.

“I had my interview with Almost Home on Monday and on Wednesday, they called to tell me I was accepted into the program,” says Dwanna. “She asked when I wanted to move in and I told her Thursday, so E.J. and I are moving out tomorrow. I am very excited.”  Dwanna has succeeded in accomplishing one of her first goals.

Dwanna and her son will move into Almost Home’s transitional housing program, which will help her to get back on her feet.  After successfully completing that program, Dwanna can qualify to move into the Almost Home Apartments, located across the street from the transitional housing building. The apartments were created as a stepping stone to full independence, but are not meant to be a young woman‘s permanent living space. Dwanna already has specific goals in mind to ensure she can provide stable housing for E.J. moving forward.

“My first goal once, we are settled at Almost Home, is to get my GED. I was supposed to graduate this June, but I became homeless at the beginning of the semester and had to leave school,” explains Dwanna. “Once I have my GED, I plan on working toward my next goal – to be an LPN. I have looked into many careers and the nursing field has many options and job opportunities once I have my license.”

Site Coordinator Sharon Blount has also been working with Dwanna over the past month and definitely sees her potential. “Dwanna has the compassion and the heart to be an LPN,” says Sharon. “Not everyone does, but this young woman is a giver.  I am expecting her to meet her goals, but at her own pace because she is a devoted mom and knows she has to be responsible for her son. She has accomplished so much in 30 days at Room, so I know she can do it. We are all proud of her.”

We wish Dwanna success as she continues her journey to self-sufficiency and stability.

Motivated Clients Referred to Housing

“We had been homeless for a while, moving from shelter to shelter. We called the St. Louis County Homeless Hotline and they referred us to Room at the Inn. It has been uphill ever since!” says Karla Thomas.

Karla and her husband, Cedric, have been clients at Room since December 28. From day one, they have worked diligently with Client Coordinator Angela Hamilton on getting their their paperwork in order and on working through our program. They been going on job interviews, participating in classes aimed at developing positive life skills in budgeting, health, nutrition and effectively managing a household. Karla also passed the test required to reactivate her Certified Medication Technician (CMT) certificate. During their two months at Room, both Cedric and Karla were hired by Busch Stadium and are now employed.

“They have been very motivated and wonderful to work with. I referred them to the Humanitri Transitional Housing program and they were accepted,” explains Angie. “What makes this case unique is this is the first time Humantri has accepted a married couple without children into their program. They decided to make an exception for Karla and Cedric and they moved into housing on February 25.”

The Humanitri Transitional Housing Program (THP) is a part of the St. Louis Continuum of Care for homeless families. Services are provided to residents of both St. Louis City and St. Louis County. This program provides up to 24 months of transitional housing, case management, and comprehensive support services (budgeting, job placement, counseling, and spiritual care) to stabilize the family and help them attain and maintain permanent housing.

Karla and Cedric are very appreciative for the all resources and support they have received from both Room staff and the night site volunteers.

“The congregations were so kind to us. The volunteers are beautiful people and so willing to help. It has been a great experience – whatever we needed, they provided,” says Karla. “They really care – and they show the clients that they care.”

Site Coordinator Sharon Blount has been gathering various donated items such as dishes, cookware and bedding for the couple’s new home.

“It is such a joy to see Karla and Cedric move into housing. They have been exceptionally good clients and so patient. Room has a donated television for them and whatever else we can send with them, we will,” says Sharon with a big smile. “They are also eligible for a month’s worth of food from the St. Louis Food Bank through their Transitional Housing Program to help them get back on their feet.”

Sharon, like Angie, also attributes the couple’s success to their motivation and willingness to change habits that stood in their way of achieving self-sufficiency.

“Clients have to be ready to move forward and make the necessary changes in their lives. If Karla and Cedric had not changed their way of thinking, this would not have happened for them,” says Sharon. “I tell the clients all the time, ‘There is a reason you are here at Room – the help is here because the blessings are here. Trust yourself and believe in yourself. The good Lord believes you can do it and sometimes, He just makes you prove it to yourself that you can do it!’”

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