Tuesday 05.15.2018

MMI Funds St. Louis Based Housing Program

St. Lazare House, a permanent housing program in St. Louis, aims at giving older, homeless young adults with mental health needs a chance at stability.

The 15-unit apartment building in south St. Louis is operated through Depaul USA, and provides housing for young adult ages 18 to 24.

Suzanne Kenyon, the director of Depaul USA in St. Louis, said although there are permanent housing resources in the city for adults and temporary housing resources for young people, the need for permanent supportive housing for young people is widely unmet.

At St. Lazare House, residents will have access to a life coach and a program director to get them geared up for the real world when they’re ready to move on, Kenyon said.

“An assessment is done to see what services they can use and then we link them to the community in whatever way is needed, as far as medical or mental health, employment services,” she said.

Because the St. Lazare House is specifically intended for young people who have experienced chronic homelessness and mental health problems, all of the clients are referred to the house through the Front Door Coordinated Entry system, a database that filters housing based on a person or family’s need.

Jama Dodson is the executive director of the St. Louis Mental Health Board. She said when they heard about the St. Lazare House they jumped on board, offering a $250,000 grant.

“We do not have supportive housing for young adults in our city anywhere near the demand and need for it,” Dodson said. “So when we saw this one coming down the pike, we said, yes we really need to support it.”

It’s now one of two permanent supportive housing facilities in the city. The other is the Amanda Luckett Murphy Hopewell Center.

Dodson said the board made the investment into the facility, because many young people who age out of the foster care system are left without the support they need. According to a 2015 behavioral needs assessment by the St. Louis Mental Health Board and the Washington University Brown School, 50 percent of young people who leave the system will likely be homeless for at lease one night within the first two years of aging out of foster care.

Dodson said it can be especially difficult for young people who are dealing with mental health conditions and have to take medications.

“We just can’t keep assuming that somebody’s going to start to get better if they have nowhere to be stable and if they don’t have the services that they need to get over the condition that they’re experiencing,” she said.

St. Lazare House also received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Daughters of Charity MMI and the Brown Sisters Foundation.

The 15-unit building is already at capacity, and Depaul USA officials said they hope to expand in the future.

Originally published by St. Louis Public Radio.