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.
Joe’s Place has the remarkable experience of coming full-circle in 2021 by welcoming alumnus Sam and wife Katie Blue as house parents! Sam is a 2015 graduate from Joe’s Place and MRH High School. Since graduation, he retained close ties with Joe’s Place and the larger MRH community as a gifted musician and music teacher. Those who attended the Joe’s Place virtual event in May were touched by Sam’s first-hand account of being a resident of Joe’s Place and were treated to a special piano interlude. Katie has a social work degree and strong social service background. Although she did not grow up in the area, Katie says she already feels a strong sense of connection to the community. Sam and Katie are excited to join the Joe’s Place community in this new role. Their primary goal right now is to create a sense of family connection and belonging in the home to help the residents flourish and prepare for their next phase of life. Sam and Katie want to ensure the residents have the love and support they need to succeed.