Focus is on people in need at Dellwood intake center

Lisa Johnston |

Melvin Foster gave his full attention to the woman sitting across the table from him. He looked down only to fill out a form with her answers to his questions.

His ability to listen to her closely — and thus let her know that her concerns are being taken seriously — was no easy task given the level of activity and distractions around him.

The hot line supervisor for Catholic Charities Housing Resource Center, Foster was serving as an intake worker at the Community Resource Drop-In Center set up in Dellwood by the United Way of St. Louis to assist individuals and families adversely affected by the events in their neighborhoods surrounding the protests and violence in Ferguson that erupted following the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.

Tables and chairs had been set up in a room at a community center, and people were checking in, waiting their turn or getting help. On an adjoining athletic field, children and teens were playing football, basketball or other games.

At the center, health and human services agencies provided services, such as basic needs and counseling. The obstacles people faced included: lost sleep because of noise, fear and stress; lost wages because of blocked streets and bus stops and because of curfews or lack of child care while children were off school; lack of food and supplies due to closed businesses and food pantries with depleted shelves; and other struggles.

Foster said that Catholic Charities was taking applications from people behind in rent, mortgage and utility payments. He cited one man who is an over-the-road truck driver who couldn't get his truck out because of closed streets. Another person had worked at the QuikTrip convenience store that had been destroyed by looters and set on fire.

"This is just a way to provide help until they can get on their feet," Foster said.

He saw a positive response: "People are glad we came out, that we came together for them."

Kateri Chapman-Kramer, a counselor from the Children's Home Society of Missouri on duty at the drop-in center, explained that the focus was on recognizing the trauma people have been experiencing and helping to bring back to normal the feelings and emotions they might be experiencing. If an assessment showed they needed ongoing mental health support, the residents were referred to an agency that could provide that help.

Ashley Gammon, director of communications for the United Way, cited the help given to a boy who had been unable to sleep because of the turmoil and a woman who received the help she needed because her income was affected when she couldn't get to her job.

The board of the Missouri Foundation for Health approved a grant of up to $25,000 for Catholic Charities. The funding was to provide case management at the drop-in center.

The Missouri Foundation for Health is a resource working with communities and nonprofit organizations to promote positive changes in the health of the community. The foundation strives to improve the health of Missourians through partnerships, education, knowledge and funding. 

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