Tag Archives: Family Haven

Semi-pro football team lends helping hands

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Members of the St. Louis Spirit football team recently traded the gridiron for a swatch of tilled earth to help The Salvation Army’s Family Haven develop a community garden.

The minor league football team – part of the Great Midwest Football League – is no stranger to volunteering.

“St. Louis Spirit has always had a special interest in reaching out to charitable organizations,” said head coach and owner Damon Cannon. “But since we’ve focused our efforts on The Salvation Army, I think we’ve been able to do some real good in the community.”

In the past, the team has conducted several food drives to benefit Salvation Army food pantries; moved furniture and set up resident rooms at the Family Haven shelter; conducted fundraisers; and collected much-needed personal care items at their football games. Most recently, they joined children from the shelter to build a community garden, which will eventually allow the residents to grow and eat their own food.

“It’s not just about providing a food source,” Cannon said. “Most of our children in urban St. Louis have never planted a garden or even been around one. They’ll now have the chance to learn how things grow, the work that goes into it, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It’s a great life lesson.”

For quarterback Eric Bailey, volunteering should be a priority for everyone.

“We think that we don’t have time, that the little time we do have wouldn’t make an impact, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Bailey said. “Reading one book to a child, move some heavy furniture, just sitting and listening to someone talk, or building a garden; it all makes an impact.”

According to Cannon, working with The Salvation Army was a perfect fit.

“Our football players are playing semi-pro because they missed the opportunity to advance their careers,” he said. “Maybe they didn’t get the test scores or scholarship they need. For them, we’re the second chance for those guys. We give them a place to realize their dreams and stay off the streets.

“For whatever reason, they slipped up, and there are so many people in St. Louis who need a second chance, too. The Salvation Army is there to ensure they get it.”

To see The Salvation Army’s perspective on the importance of food insecurity, take a look at what our Divisional Commander has to say in a St. Louis American Op-Ed.


Visit to Shelter Inspires Students to Learn About Homelessness

By: Bethany Williams, Midland Division

The staff at Family Haven felt
“blessed” to have eighth graders from St. Joseph’s Day School in Imperial, Mo. provide hours of service for the shelter on April 12th.

The group of students cleaned the Family Haven Child Center, a high-traffic playroom in the family shelter which serves up to 50 kids daily. Additionally, the students dug in and assisted the shelter with picking up the grounds, and deep-cleaning the dining area and administrative floor.

“Our group realized that what we accomplished in two hours would have taken the single groundsman days,” says 8th grade teacher Debbie Thomas.

After taking a tour of the facility, Mrs. Thomas challenged the students to imagine their family living in a small space without their daily pleasure such as iPhones or televisions.

“This experience has allowed my students to realize just how fortunate they are,” says Mrs. Thomas.

The experience at the shelter inspired Thomas and her group to take on the shelter as an ongoing project. During their tour, they learned more about the needs of the shelter, and Mrs. Thomas is hoping to work with her class next year to host a drive to meet those needs, collecting items such as stuffed animals, blow dryers, toiletries and books to provide comfort to the residents at Family Haven.

The group has spent much of the year doing extensive work and study on the issue of homelessness, and their volunteer service with The Salvation Army’s Family Haven shelter rounded out a year of exploring the important topic. Thomas says the trip to Family Haven reinforced an appreciation among the students for what they have, and a desire to help those who are less fortunate.

Family Haven’s staff warmly expressed their gratitude for the service provided by the students of St. Joseph Imperial,“The students are dedicated to the aspect of their religion that addresses serving their fellow man.”

Family Haven is a Community in Partnership program serving the homeless population in St. Louis. The program lasts 120 days where each resident is assigned a case manager and counselor to help them obtain a job and housing.

Their mission is to empower St. Louis residents to come to a place of self-sufficiency. Click here for more information on The Salvation Army’s homeless services.

A Partner in Parenting Today’s Homeless Youth

In recognition of National Homeless Youth Month, we are featuring the work of Shalonda Haynes, Educational Coordinator for our Family Haven Shelter.

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

The Salvation Army’s Family Haven shelter houses between 40 and 50 homeless children at any given time. “Most of our families have been doubled up with another family, couch surfing as long as people are willing to put them up, and then they reach the end of the line with nowhere to go,” says Shalonda Haynes, Educational Coordinator for Family Haven.

“My job is to help our clients regain self-sufficiency, while looking out for their children,” she explains. Shalonda ensures that children that enter the shelter are enrolled in school within 24 to 48 hours of entry. “By law, these children are allowed to remain in their home school district, or they can transfer to Pattonville, our district. I assist the parents in making certain that they can get their children enrolled, and serve as the family’s advocate in the education process.”

At Family Haven, Haynes serves as an advocate for resident children in disciplinary processes, working to coordinate cooperative solutions between her families and schools, and ensuring that the rights of all parties are recognized throughout the process. Children who may have educational diagnoses or development delays are assessed by Haynes, and referred to the school district or Parents as Teachers for further analysis. Shalonda remains as involved as the parents’ wishes dictate throughout diagnoses and implementation of a formal education plan.

The typical stay for a family at Family Haven is less than 5 months, but Haynes continues to work with children and families long after they have left the shelter. “By helping the children, I am also helping the parents to parent better. I continue to be involved with these families for as long as they need me, to ensure that their needs are being met by schools, parents and the like.”

“Many of my parents are dealing with [the Department of Family Services]. I work with them to establish visitation, to strengthen their parenting skills through our mandatory parenting classes, and I accompany them to their court and administrative hearings to make sure they have someone who can explain their rights to them throughout the process,” she says, “These parents come into our shelter with a lot on their plate, and sometimes their children’s education takes a back seat. They are still wrapping their brains around being homeless, and we have to throw a lot of stuff at them upon arrival – tasks that need to be completed in a timely fashion in order to get them on their feet again. They need a partner to step in when they just cannot do it all.”

No Ordinary Home

The term “homeless shelter” conjures up images of soup kitchens, cots and cold tile. Lillian Bartee imagined these same things when she found herself without a home or job, and preparing to enter The Salvation Army’s Family Haven, but came to find that Family Haven was anything but cold. Lillian’s story is one of how the structure and loving environment of a Salvation Army shelter could serve as the launch pad for greater personal success.


Walking into any of Family Haven, the largest family shelter in St. Louis County, visitors are greeted by bible verses and positive affirmations painted on the walls, and the smell of a wholesome home-cooked meal wafting from a kitchen. Every resident is provided their own bed and families have their own room, which many have decorated with crafts and photographs. A play center just off the main entrance has walls adorned with Thomas the Tank Engine, dolphins, inspirational quotes and art. A book nook with pillows and blankets sits adjacent to a computer lab for adults and children alike to find quiet space to read. In short, nothing about this shelter fits the stereotype, and many people who previously had nothing are proud to call it home. 

Lillian grew up in St. Louis and never imagined she would find herself in a homeless shelter, but after a series of trying circumstances, including family turmoil, the death of her parents and the loss of a job she loved, she found herself living in her car. She entered the Family Haven shelter, where she quickly realized the opportunity before her.


During her stay at Family Haven, Lillian saved the required 80 percent of her income, and used all the resources provided to her to actively job search. She attended meetings, biblical devotions and worship services. All residents at Family Haven are provided opportunities for therapy, medical care, classes, tutoring and more. During her stay, Lillian came to grow close with the staff, who encouraged her at every step along the way.  

“I worked the system. I took advantage of every opportunity they gave me. [The system] was put into place because it works,” she recalls.


Nearing the end of her stay, Lil wondered where she might stay when the 120 day program came to an end. She had been able to secure unemployment benefits, but had not yet been successful in finding permanent employment or housing. Her case worker at Family Haven found an opening at The Salvation Army’s Railton residence, an apartment building in downtown St. Louis that offers downtown living at an affordable price for those who need it. Much to her surprise, Lillian was approved for the apartment.  

“I was excited to find a place,” says Lillian, “but I still needed stable income.” Lillian had worked tirelessly to apply for jobs and network through the Family Haven program, but had not yet found a position that would grant her long-term security. “On the day that I moved into the apartment, my phone rang and I was offered a position at Enterprise Holdings… on that very day.”


“Everything fell into place. I had nothing, and within days I had hope for a new life, my own home and a job,” says Lillian, who attributes her success to diligence, drive and the grace of God. “You have to accept the blessing you got. You have to be diligent and you have to want something in order to achieve it.” 

The Family Haven shelter provides emergency shelter to homeless people for up to four months, and services to build a permanent foundation for the people they serve. In 2010, 321 individuals were served through Family Haven’s social services.


Residents admitted to the shelter are connected with a network of people that help them restore every area of their life. From the minutia of daily life such as participating in daily chores, to the largest issues such as overcoming mental illness, the staff at Family Haven works to help their clients end the cycle of poverty restore order to otherwise uncertain lives. In 2010, 49 individuals received permanent housing placement, while untold others were helped with transitional housing. More than 23,000 nights of lodging are provided to those in need through Family Haven each year alone. 

“I am so thankful to The Salvation Army for all they have done for me,” she says. Lillian continues to work and restore her life. In time, she hopes to help others in the same way that The Salvation Army helped her.

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