ST. LOUIS — After serving clients with chronic and end-of-life illnesses for most of her career, Kimberly Brown switched her focus to the beginning of life.
For 24 years, she worked at Interfaith Residence (also known as Doorways), a nonprofit that provides housing and other services for people living with HIV/AIDS, most recently as administrator of a residential care facility. Brown then held leadership posts at Cardinal Ritter Senior Services and Creve Coeur Assisted Living, before becoming executive director of The Haven of Grace in 2018. Haven of Grace, which provides a home and services to young, pregnant homeless women 18 and older, is in Old North St. Louis and has an operating budget of $900,000.
In addition to her work, Brown mentors young women, and traveled to Africa with a mission group providing building repair, health care and supplies.
How does Haven of Grace operate? Most of the time, when you think about shelter, it’s just a bed for the night. Haven of Grace is a three-tier program: the maternity shelter, the residential program and an aftercare program. A young lady needs to be at least 18 and four weeks pregnant to come into the shelter, and she can come with two additional children. She can stay in the shelter for up to one year after her baby is born. We provide everything. There’s also case management, and we collaborate with other organizations that help them learn about breastfeeding and prenatal care, infant/child CPR. After she graduates the shelter program, she can move to independent living, which is our seven apartments, fully furnished, right here on the property. They still have access to our case manager. We ask that they pay $200 toward their rent, and they have to have a job. Then we require them to save 30% of what they make. After that two-year (independent living) period, they can become part of our aftercare program, which is now a 10-year program. That is to just keep them connected with us, so they don’t get out and start to flounder. We’re seeing great successes in that.
How has Covid-19 impacted the shelter? There are eight of us that work full time during the day. I started out thinking that we all have our own offices, so we don’t have to worry about any cross contamination. But I woke up about 2:30 in the morning and thought, if just one person contracts the virus, I would have to send everyone home, because we’re considered an essential staff. So I divided the eight so at least one member of each discipline was here, and we worked five days on, five days off. (Last month) we came back to full staff, but we still practice social distancing, we still wear a mask. Every four hours, two of us get up in teams and we clean all hard surfaces.
How did your 1986 move to St. Louis come about? I’m originally from Arkansas. When I graduated from college, a friend and I had decided we were going to go to Japan and teach English. I drove to St. Louis to say goodbye to my family that lived here, and we were going to fly out of Atlanta on our leg to Japan. That morning, I got up to get in my car to drive to Atlanta and it would not start. I’m in a Firestone waiting to get my car fixed, and the gentleman sitting beside me was Mr. (Carl) Simons, and he owned a chain of ladies’ clothing stores in St. Louis called Fashion Gal. I must’ve been dressed very nice sitting in the Firestone, but he hired me right there on the spot. I realized right then that I would be making more money doing that than in Japan. Then later I moved to the nonprofit world.
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