Joe’s Place is an innovative idea born from a dramatic need in our community. On any given night in St. Louis, there are around 1,500 homeless teens. In the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, there are at least 30 students each night who find themselves without a home due to serious family difficulties. These students sleep and eat wherever friends will let them settle for a time.
As the MRH School District struggles to find a safe haven for these youngsters, we find again and again that teens between the ages of 14 and 18 have few support nets in our social welfare system. Homeless teenagers are the invisible children in our society and are often skillful at masking their homelessness from adults.
Joe’s Place tackles a complex problem with a straightforward approach: to collaborate as a community in providing a safe environment for some of our neediest teenagers, allowing them to pursue high school graduation.
Through the dramatic collaboration of the MRH School District, Crossroads Presbyterian Church and other local churches, and a number of committed volunteers, the non-profit Joe’s Place was launched. The program offers a group of teenage boys what every kid should be able to expect from life: a warm place to sleep, regular meals, and someone to provide guidance and affection.
No single entity within our community can take care of this issue alone. In fact, it is reasonable for us to shrug these students off as someone else’s problem. In the end, however, the quality of their lives affects the quality of ours.
In 2012 the MRH School District was named one of three national grand prize winners in the American School Board Journal’s (ASBJ) and National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 18th annual Magna Awards program for Joe’s Place.