Plight in the 'Burbs: With helping hand, another homeless statistic is avoided
Kathy Mantle’s five grandchildren had moved in with her temporarily at her small mobile home in St. Charles County, and she wasn’t able to support them adequately on the income from her job.
Mantle and her family continued to experience episodes of hard times. She is employed in a factory setting, but her income and expenses allow no margin for life’s challenges. After her daughter and son-in-law took the grandchildren back to their home, a fire destroyed it and the whole family returned to live with Mantle, her teenage daughter and 11-year-old son, who has Down Syndrome.
The situation became even more complicated when Mantle suffered a stroke. The stress of trying to cope with the struggles probably contributed to it, she noted. With health care bills mounting and a loss of income from being off from her job, she had no money for rental fees for her housing costs.
She always had persevered without outside help in the past when faced with financial struggles, but this time was different. So she sought help from Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service.
“I probably would have lost everything,” Mantle said, citing health and family struggles that forced her to choose which bills to pay and which to set aside. “Everything caved in on me.”
Mantle and her children would have become another homeless family in St. Charles County if she hadn’t already been working with a social worker from Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service. “They helped me keep my trailer. Without my trailer, I don’t know where I’d be,” Mantle explained.
When she came to Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service she met Pam Struckhoff, director of programs. Sts. Joachim and Ann is the largest provider of humanitarian aid and social services in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren Counties. A nonprofit agency, its roots are at Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles.
“I needed help. Even when I didn’t need help, after I got back on my feet,” Mantle said, Struckhoff would call and check up on her. “I call her my guardian angel.”
Mantle said she thought taking in her daughter’s family “was going to be a short stay, but it didn’t happen that way. I just couldn’t do it by myself. And I’m one person who doesn’t give up on my family.”
Even after her problems multiplied, Sts. Joachim and Ann didn’t give up on her, she said.
The assistance with some of her bills and with food enabled her to find a new place to move her mobile home after she received an eviction notice.
Most of all though, she said, Struckhoff’s presence meant she had something just as important. “She’s one person I could talk to. It’s just not easy being a single mom. It’s been extremely rough. Like a lot of people, I got so tired of everything going wrong. You just want to give up. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we talked on the phone, and she’d help me to see through it. She’d take time out of her personal life to call and check up on me. And she’d do everything she could to help me find the resources. When my mother died in the middle of this, she was there to listen to me.”
Mantle’s teenage daughter also was a big help, especially in making phone calls to find a new place to move the mobile home. Being able to stay in the same school district was a plus, especially for her son, who needs a stable environment.
St. Louis County is another suburban area that has seen its share of homelessness. Juanese, who provided only her first name for privacy reasons, came to St. Louis from Los Angeles and spent six years taking care of her grandfather. She quit a successful career as a driver of 18-wheel trucks to care for him. When he died, she had no income and couldn’t remain in his home.
A Catholic, she was happy to find a place to stay with Room at the Inn, a program that provides emergency shelter for homeless women and families in St. Louis County. Sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence and supported by a network of nearly 60 interfaith congregations, it provides shelter, food, transportation, referrals and case management.
“This place is all there was,” she said of her options. “But they take care of us, and I love it here.”
It was her first “and hopefully my last shelter,” she said. Eager to go back to work, she was delayed because she didn’t have her birth certificate and was waiting for it to be processed in California. Because she has skills as a driver, she had more than 40 job offers.
An interesting thing happened on the way to the job offers, she said. She had been seeking a rosary for a couple weeks and then Franciscan Sister Joann Nowak, program director, found out and gave her a rosary and booklet. Juanese prayed the rosary, and the next day she learned of the job offers. “It’s the truth. I prayed, asked God — I need a job, I need my birth certificate.”
Juanese said she has had struggles in her life and always had empathy for people who are homeless. “But I never would have dreamed I’d be in a shelter. God sent me here, and I’m glad this was the place.”
Sister Joann said that people see homelessness as “the wino or people out on the streets pushing their carts, and while that is an element, it is a small part of the whole picture.”
Homelessness is closer to people in the suburbs than they think, Sister Joann said.
The economy has affected the housing market with foreclosures from top to bottom, with homelessness the result for some, she said. “I have a person here today from Ballwin, and we have another one coming in today from Chesterfield. It’s our friends and neighbors who are living on the edge, sometimes who have overspent or the job market changed and the income isn’t there.”
A big factor also is health issues, including mental illness, she said. They can’t maintain their jobs and head for a downward spiral.”
Room at the Inn does case management and helps clients find resources during the day, and then in the evening they stay at a network of some 60 churches. The people in those congregations — including several Catholic parishes — provide a meal, fellowship, transportation and more.
Volunteers run those church programs, and volunteers also help at Room at the Inn in a number of roles. Donations also are sought to help with the clients’ needs.
Ways to help
Several agencies addressing homelessness in surburban areas can use volunteers and donations.
Room at the Inn: Contact Ana Schulz, development director, 3415 Bridgeland Drive, St. Louis, MO 63044, (314) 209-9181 or firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://stlouisreview.com/1Sq. Congregations that are interested in serving as a night site can contact email@example.com.
Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service: Mail donations to Sts. Joachim & Ann Care Service, 4116 McClay Road, St. Charles, MO 63304 or donate online at jacares.org/?page_id=378. For information contact Karen Runge at (636) 441-1302 ext. 263 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also contact your parish Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference or Catholic Charities.
- Housing Resource Center — helping families fight eviction, foreclosure, homelessness
- Helping Catholics come back home to the Church
- Scouts' honor: The principles of Boy Scouts and the Church go hand in hand
- A way of life ... A way of love: Catholic couples find natural family planning helps improve marriage, faith and family
- For parents: How to help your teen grow in faith
- News »
- Papal News
- Religious Liberty
- Living Our Faith »
- Church Teaching »
- Opinion »
- Year of Faith
- Special Sections »