ST. LOUIS — An organization in Dutchtown, Restoration House, is changing the lives of teens and young adults many of them are at risk and homeless.

The Dutchtown Melvin Theater was a dumping ground eyesore for years until activists saw its potential to help the community.

They restored the building so in return they could restore dignity in what felt like a hopeless place.

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“That's something that we value at Restoration House, is that everyone truly matters. Every life has purpose,” Restoration House Director of Operations and Co-Founder Lilly Blake said.

Blake said they help young people from ages 18 to 27 pick themselves up and start over.

“If someone needs help looking for a job, if someone needs help maybe trying to reenroll in school, whatever you need help with, we have our doors open. We also have a birth certificate and state I.D. program as well, where people could come in and get the vouchers and get that done for free,” Blake said.

5 On Your Side’s Laura Barczewski asked Blake, “What kind of situations do you find that a lot of these young people you help are coming to you in?”

She responded, “We have a lot of people who might come at risk of homelessness, which might mean maybe they never know if they might be able to make the rent or not. We actually do have young people who are street homeless. And one thing that is like an overarching concept that we see is the lack of support.”

Tiana Willis known as ‘TT’ said she knows firsthand how lack of support can destroy a person.

She lost her mom in 2018.

“It's a traumatic moment for me and my brother because the night she died, she was literally in our arms,” Willis said.

Before finding restoration house her life was unpredictable.

“Ever since I lost her, I've been moving from place to place, from friends to family, to sometimes just going to extended stays,” Willis said.

She said she was at the point of giving up but then a helping hand at Restoration House changed her life.

“Me and my brother were walking to Moto Mart and Tim approached us and he said something about food first. So that drew me in,” Willis said.

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They found a place they felt safe, supported and could have fun, when just steps outside the door it's not always safe.

“Half the time I have to walk home or either walk to the store and these guys are shooting at each other, it's a dangerous situation,” Willis said.

Restoration House helped Willis get her birth certificate and social security card so she could get a job.

“Now I'm at AutoZone, I'm a CSR, a part time sales manager, so I'll be there most of the time when I'm not here. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I'm here,” Willis said.

And now she’s set her sights on going to college to be a teacher or counselor to help young people just like her.

“I actually know I came a long way because I could have been homeless. I could have been on drugs, selling my body or anything. Instead of doing that, I actually took an initiative to take control my own life. When I take control of my own life, I feel like I can do anything,” Willis said. 

In the past year alone, Restoration House said they’ve helped more than 400 people with meals, resources and case management not just in South City but all over St. Louis.

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