The city of St. Louis was still asleep as the sun broke the horizon of a muggy and early April 10 morning. Not a vehicle or person was in sight down Russell Boulevard, except for a Humanitri bus waiting to depart to a state prison. The passengers eagerly waiting inside did not care that it was 6:15 in the morning, or that they had to start their weekend earlier than most. They were happy to be on their way to see their family members who are in prison.
“I have two sons locked up. I am the only one who ever goes to see them,” said one woman, as she excitedly tapped her foot in anticipation. “One comes out next year, and the other comes out in less than two. I let them know I love them, and I am starting to see positive changes because one just got his G.E.D. and wants to go to school when he gets out.”
Humanitri’s new two-year pilot program, “Next Steps Home,” will continue to serve inmates and their families 12 to 18 months after release.
It was less than a year ago that St. Louis resident Shawntay Vaughn was being moved out of her domestic violence transitional house without any income, no employment on the horizon and state sanctions on her welfare benefits for being non-compliant. She applied for low-income housing, but without any source of income, finding a home for her two children proved nearly impossible.
To help remove the barriers which led to Vaughn’s benefits being sanctioned by the state, her case worker referred her to ARCHS' Welfare to Work Partnership for assistance with finding employment and apartment deposit services. Within a month, she was set up with job as a receptionist at Johnson Computer Technologies on North Euclid, which hired her on permanently in July. She has since transitioned into the role of office manager.
ARCHS’ Welfare to Work Partnership was originally awarded funding in 2007 from the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) to support Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) participants who have been sanctioned for not adhering to benefit requirements.
“I love my job, and my bosses understand what I am going through being a single mom with two small children. They still expect me to be a responsible employee though,” Vaughn said. “I was very pleased with ARCHS because of how fast they found employment for me. I knew I truly was working with people who really wanted to help me because sometimes you don’t get the compassion and understanding with state case workers. With ARCHS, you can just tell they are in the business of helping people.”
North City resident Kenny Williams and his team had just posted another victory in the St. Louis NITES Basketball League, and the group of young men was all smiles as they walked off the court. Their successful efforts did not end on the basketball court though, because all were headed to a life skills learning class right after to continue in their winning ways.
The league is a partnership between ARCHS, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry and Fathers' Support Center. Over 240 men between the ages of 18-35 form 10 teams for an 11-week basketball league.
ARCHS was selected by the City of St. Louis to manage the partnership via a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process.