In 1988 the Salvation Army began a program to provide homeless women and families temporary shelter in St. Louis County. The Sisters of Divine Providence, whose provincial house was in Normandy, MO made a corporate commitment to the homeless in 1990. These two organizations would meet “providentially” a couple of years later. In 1992 the Salvation Army obtained a grant that enabled them to expand Room at the Inn from a weekend shelter to a year-round shelter. Unfortunately the building used by the Salvation Army sustained damage from a fire and they began looking for other housing for the shelter. Enter the Sisters of Divine Providence who offered the fourth floor space in their provincial house as a way they could enflesh their corporate commitment to the homeless.
Eventually the Sisters became the sole sponsors of Room at the Inn and when they sold their provincial house and moved, they committed to moving the ministry with them. So the building, Providence Center, in Bridgeton, MO was bought and used both for the community’s needs and for the shelter. For many years the Sisters of Divine Providence and their lay associates were very involved in the sponsorship of this shelter and even at times, gave direct service as staff and volunteer. The mission and spirit of the Sisters was strongly imbued in the organization and wonderful relationships were forged with the many night site church congregations that partnered with Room at the Inn. For years the Sisters and Room at the Inn were linked together.
Over time, as changes took place within the community, the sponsored institutions were encouraged to find ways to move toward independence and sustainability. In 2018 the Sisters themselves realized that they could no longer keep Providence Center. Rather than sell the property, they made the decision to donate the property to Room at the Inn! It was their hope that by gifting Room with the property, they would be able to establish a firm foundation and base of support to secure the future of the program.
The Sisters’ mission to the homeless, and the spirit of justice, peace and compassion as a congregation hopefully will live on in their legacy to Room at the Inn. The light of God’s Providential love will continue to shine. Though the Sisters are no longer sponsors it is their hope that the mission and charism is imbued with the staff and board of directors so that the ministry exhibits that same care and commitment. With their legacy, and the gift of the building, homeless women and families will continue to be served for years to come.
Shannon L. Alder says: “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Hopefully, the Sisters of Divine Providence have left a lasting footprint that will be remembered by the lives they touched.
Barbara McMullen, CDP