Sheltering in place can be difficult enough when you have a stable roof over your head, but what if you are among the many St. Louisans who don’t? Who do you turn to for help, support and the resources to overcome challenges?
Professionals at Wells Fargo Advisors realized that these were questions without good answers for many local individuals and families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help those in need, the financial advisory firm has earmarked major funding for three local nonprofits that serve people experiencing homelessness. Covenant House Missouri, St. Patrick Center and Almost Home are sharing a $250,000 contribution from the firm.
Wells Fargo community relations vice president Vianey Beltran says the funding effort is comprehensive because it considers the needs of different age groups grappling with the issue. Covenant House helps young people ages 16 to 24, St. Patrick Center works with adults and veterans, and Almost Home provides resources for young mothers and their children. “We wanted to make sure we were capturing a diverse section of the population,” Beltran says. “These nonprofits are experts in the field, so we have empowered them to use the funds where they see the greatest need. That could mean adding new beds, providing food or addressing other basic requirements.” She says the funding is part of a $175 million commitment Wells Fargo has made to support nonprofits across the country through June 1.
Reona Wise, executive director of Almost Home, says events like COVID-19 magnify the needs of those who don’t have a stable home, but critical funding can make a real difference. “Homelessness itself is an ongoing epidemic,” she notes. “Access to basic needs like shelter, food and safety have a positive spillover effect that can lead to improved quality of life.”
Covenant House CEO Jessica Erfling explains that the need for expanded services is great because people experiencing homelessness may be at increased risk for COVID-19. “We have a comprehensive response plan and are ensuring that youth continue to have access to housing and support services for their mental, physical and emotional health,” she says. “Our teams also are working to help them build resumes, apply for jobs and access online learning.” Anthony D’Agostino, CEO of St. Patrick Center, says people dealing with homelessness also are at greater risk for substance abuse, mental health issues and other complex challenges that can make it difficult for them to move forward. “With job losses caused by the pandemic, we anticipate a rise in the number of people seeking housing, job training, medical treatment, and assistance with rent and utilities,” he says.
Every day, about 2,300 people go without shelter in the St. Louis area, including 600 youth and 200 veterans. “Our biggest hope is that this funding will keep people safe in difficult times,” Beltran says. “We know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping them, and that’s why we realized it would make sense to combine our resources with the nonprofits’ areas of expertise. We want to address the need so individuals can grow, succeed and reach their personal goals.”
Covenant House Missouri, St. Patrick Center and Almost Home assist locals dealing with homelessness. Pictured on the cover: Reona Wise, Anthony D’Agostino, Vianey Beltran, Jessica Erfling. For more information, call 314.533.2241 or visit covenanthousemo.org.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Bill Barrett
Pictured at top: Jessica Erfling, Vianey Beltran
Photo: Bill Barrett