In an Old Ferguson Chapel, a Home for Women Who Do Not Have One

By on October 9, 2018

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  The little chapel on the hill, vacant for more than a decade, will soon be home to women who do not have one.

For more than a year, All Among Us, a small nonprofit group, has been slowly renovating the former home to Zion Lutheran Church into what will be a women’s care center, providing housing for up to two years along with a variety of services with one simple but challenging goal: a stable living environment.

“Everything I’ve done for 12 years has led up to this,” said Cathryn Shaw, executive director of All Among Us. “We are ready for this. We are doing something nobody else is doing in St. Louis and I think it’s going to be lovely.”

The center is not a shelter, Shaw said, but a place where up to 12 women can live, find their footing and eventually get a place of their own. But it does not end there. Every woman who successfully completes her time with the center is expected to come back and help newer residents. Hearing firsthand from those who escaped the cycle of poverty, who know the challenges that got the women there and the pitfalls that lie ahead.

The women living at the new center will have access to mental health care and financial literacy classes. They will work toward an employment plan that can include more education, interview skills and transportation assistance.

The center, in the heart of the city, was not in the picture in 2005 when Shaw first began helping the homeless. At the time, she was working as an office manager for a downtown construction company. Employees were warned when they started: Don’t ever make a right out of the office when leaving at night. It was where the Powell Square building sat, a place where drug addicts congregated. (The vacant building on Cedar Street was demolished in early 2013.)

One night, making her turn to the left, Shaw saw a young couple on a dock. They were homeless, hungry and cold. Shaw began helping them, enlisting the assistance of her father and others to provide a tent, blankets and food. When Shaw found out the young woman was pregnant, Shaw helped the couple land an apartment. Despite Shaw’s efforts, the newborn was taken away by the state due to neglect.

“These are the break-your-heart moments that you don’t have an answer big enough for the hardships of the world,” Shaw said.

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