ST. LOUIS – One woman has made it her mission to help the less fortunate and help the homeless get off the streets through her charity All Among Us.
“When you came to work there, part of what they told you was don’t ever make a right, you make a right in about a block is where there is homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics,” Cathryn Shaw said.
That was the advice given to Shaw when she started working in downtown St. Louis 12 years ago, but one stormy night that’s where the road led her.
“I saw this young couple, probably 18, 19 years old and didn’t have a tent, each had sleeping bags and that was all they had on this abandoned dock,” Shaw said.
She then immediately reached out to her dad for help.
“I said I’ve got this young couple downtown dad and they need a tent tonight. The weather is going to be awful and I don’t see any food, any water where they are,” Shaw said.
Her dad then came downtown. Then he and the young man set up the tent together.
“To be honest, we both kind of thought that was it. We had done what we’re called to do, and then moving forward I could just not get this population out of my mind,” Shaw said.
Shaw then began working with the homeless in hopes of giving them a better life, but it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with cancer that her life’s work really changed.
“During cancer when you’re just lying there doing nothing, I was just really feeling called to provide safe housing,” Shaw said.
She then got involved with a shelter that the City of St. Louis put in place at Park and Tucker. It was a women’s shelter that they closed down in just six weeks leaving 89 women with no place to go. Shaw then began taking women into her own home.
“You can take someone who is literally sleeping in Forest Park, and if you offer them a relationship, not giving a handout, not helping in a way that hurts, but truly seeing them as your brother or your sister, care takes on a whole different story,” Shaw said.
Seeing these changes, led her to a new chapter and a place women could call home, as she established the non-profit All Among Us, a women’s care center helping at-risk women become self-sufficient.
“I spent time just researching what God has to say about serving and what he has to say about my finances because that was scary and over and over again He promised He is going to take care of us, over and over again,” Shaw said.
That promise came with an old abandoned building owned by Zion Luthern Church of Ferguson. It would be hers for one dollar for 20 years, with the condition that she would renovate it.
“Money came in. We raised half a million dollars two years in a row,” she said. “That was like our second year being a non-profit. It was just miraculous.”
All Among Us now houses eight beds and is looking to expand to bring in three more with a grant from the county.
“These women want their friends off the street,” Shaw said. “They want their friends not to be couch surfing. So we have their support in messing up their rooms for a while.”
All Among Us not only provides housing, but it also offers therapy, basic household chores, and a community.
“So when our women come here, they don’t pay rent, unless they are working. So we focus on healing, we focus on recovery, we want those things happening before you get a job,” Shaw said.