ST. LOUIS – A 24/7 homeless shelter that recently opened in The Ville neighborhood needs donations and volunteers. It’s located at 4145 Kennerly Avenue.
“We call it the Kennerly Shelter because we’re on Kennerly,” Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins said.
Collins serves the 77th District. In addition to her legislative duties, the 29-year-old has a passion for helping the homeless. She opened the Kennerly Shelter less than a week ago. It’s the same building where she attended classes back when it was De La Salle Middle School.
“Honestly, I opened up off of emotions,” she said. “I didn’t really have everything planned.”
After a recent plea on Facebook, they received an overwhelming amount of clothing donations. They do not need any more clothes as of right now. What they do need are more coats, as it’s getting colder outside. They currently have about 50 cots, but they need more.
The gym can house 100 people. They need food, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products. But their most dire need is volunteers to help the shelter operate. Overnight help and food preparers are greatly needed.
“This whole first week I slept on a cot here at the shelter,” Collins said. “I didn’t go home because we didn’t have enough volunteers, so this is not city-funded.”
Collins understands homelessness on an even deeper level.
“I never really talk about it, but when I graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City, I actually was homeless,” she said. “So, I was sleeping out of my car for a couple of months until I found housing.”
That’s why it’s become her mission to provide more than a warm meal and a place to sleep. Collins is working to help people like Francisco Rios, who struggles with addiction by providing access to employment and mental health resources. Rios recently got out of prison on a drug conviction.
“I got out last summer, and I got it in my heart that I really wanted to change,” he said. “I don’t mind going to work, even if it’s fast food. I’ve been working all my life and as long as I’m making progress, I’m content with that.”
As Collins works to help Rios get back on his feet, the people she’s housing are required to pitch in.
“We try to keep this building as sanitary as possible,” she said. “And when we’re making sure that we are picking up our trash, we are also wanting to wash blankets. We need someone to step up—a company to step up—to help us wash blankets, because we’re not trying to leave blankets on cots for two or three days.”