Maplewood-Richmond Heights district program gives students in need a place to stay

MAPLEWOOD, Mo. – It’s a two-story home made of wood and brick and shingles, but it’s the intangible parts that come and go from here that hold it all together.

It’s called Joe’s Place, a residence for young men in the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District. A home away from home that first began in 2006 thanks to volunteers, the school board, and city council.

“Students who live with some degree of trauma or homelessness have a lot of distractions around meals and housing and safety,” says Vince Estrada, Director Student Services Maplewood Richmond Heights School District. “So their ability to kind of focus on schools and participate in the full life of a school, extracurricular activities and that kind of thing can be negatively impacted.”

Like Fred Taylor, a graduate of the program, now a track and field coach for the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District. He credits the nights spent in this house after losing his mom to cancer that helped keep him on the right path.

“Teens and young adults need somebody to look out for them and care for them and love them,” Taylor says. “Also be a role model too, because everybody don’t have that safe place to stay at night or a meal or anything. Young teens and adults, we just looking for help.”

Jeremy and Rachel Mapp have called Joe’s Place their home for the last four years.

“You think about, ‘Do they have someone to talk to when they’re at their lowest of lows,’” says Jeremy Mapp, a house parent at Joe’s Place. “When life is at its hardest. We’ve coached a lot of guys through that and it’s been amazing to do that part.”

But the Mapps are starting a new journey and chapter in their life and this Joe’s Place home is looking for the next set of house parents.

Home is where the heart is; in this case, a few hearts at any given time. Coming and going, but never really leaving.