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Almost Home helps young, struggling mothers and their children

Staff and volunteers at the nonprofit transitional living home in south St. Louis have turned escaping the cycle of poverty into a reality for many young mothers

ST. LOUIS — "There is help out there. Almost Home's vision is how do we break the cycle of poverty" said Reona Wise, the organization's executive director.

It's a vision staff and volunteers at the nonprofit transitional living home in south St. Louis have turned into a reality for many young mothers between the ages of 16 and 21 and their children.

"(We offer resources for) shelter, food, support. Those are things a lot of moms that we see don't often get due to homelessness, trauma or being in environments that are not safe and healthy for them," said Wise.

Since opening its doors 29 years ago, Almost Home has helped 1,700 women with emergency housing, education, job training and more.

Young mothers who need long-term housing may also stay at the nonprofit's apartments across the street from the facility at St. Vincent and Compton avenues.

The ultimate goal is to help the women become more independent and get back on their feet.

"From year to year, we're averaging about 60 to 70 moms at any given time because the average stay at Almost Home is averaging anywhere from 120 to 180 days. Moms can stay here up to two years depending on their circumstances," said Wise.

"I was able to get my own housing, and from there I've been successful and on my own ever since," said Vanessa Townsend, who, along with her two-year-old daughter, turned to the organization for help in 2000. Townsend, then 17, was pregnant, unemployed and homeless.

Today the St. Louis mom owns two businesses: an event management company and a makeup company. She credits Almost Home in large part with getting her back on her feet.

"You have single dads (and) fathers out here, too, who need the resources. I say, 'Let's find more avenues and other ways to make it assessible for individuals when they're needing help,'" said Townsend.

"The mission is to help them to be sustainable," added Wise.

Anyone who is in need of support is encouraged to call the United Way of Greater St. Louis' 211 helpline.

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