Donte Ingram, 21, from St. Louis, takes refuge inside a vacant building at 4th and Gratiot in downtown St. Louis. Ingram said he was taking shelter inside the building to get out of the cold and rain. He claimed he has been homeless for about two years. He currently sleeps on an old mattress inside a vacant building south of the Arch. Ingram said he hates the cold, adding that everything he owns is in his backpack.
I volunteer at a north St. Louis day shelter called Bridge of Hope Ministries. For more than 20 years, the staff has provided for the most immediate needs of its neighbors by offering showers, laundry, meals, clothing, tutoring, and help accessing specialized services. Through steadfast assistance they have won the trust of local residents.
Research shows that the most important intervention strategy for addressing homelessness is the coordination of human and social services within the neighborhood. Many of our clients are afraid to seek help outside of the Ville/Greater Ville neighborhood. Without transportation, phones, identification documents and often the ability to read, many lack access to specialized services. Bridge of Hope offers a safe place for those who are detached from families, work and healthy lifestyles. There, they take steps free of condemnation and with the support of caring staff.
As frigid temperatures arrive, Bridge of Hope — with the help of generous donors — keeps people alive. As more buildings are razed in the neighborhood, our clients’ lives are increasingly threatened. Those properties are not vacant; they are homes to our residents. At Bridge of Hope, community members are known and loved despite who they are or what they have done. Please consider doing your part this season for the homeless who are, sadly, increasingly young and vulnerable.
Photo by J.B. Forbes, firstname.lastname@example.org