YWCA Metro St. Louis

Valerie's Story

Ending Homelessness


Two years ago, Valerie Glenn left everything in her hometown of Sikeston, MO, and returned to the St. Louis area to take care of her ailing mother. However, two weeks after Glenn's arrival, her mother died leaving Glenn with very few options.

"I ended up homeless and unemployed," says Glenn.  Glenn is not alone. She is one of many St. Louisans who has experienced homelessness. In fact, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, over the course of one year, 3.5 million Americans--many of whom are women and children--experience homelessness.

Fortunately, like Glenn, homeless women in the St. Louis area are finding help through the YWCA's Phyllis Wheatley Transitional Housing Program. "Our goal is to ensure that the women who come to our program are able to maintain housing and employment," states Eulonda Nevels, director of the program.

The program provides women, 18 years and older, with safe and affordable dormitory-style housing for up to 24 months. Participants are assisted in increasing their self-sufficiency through life skills seminars, job training, case management as well as group and individual counseling. In addition, program participants also receive health screenings, financial literacy classes and computer competency training. "Financial literacy is a huge part of the program," Nevels says.

Glenn, 49, says the program has been helpful. "The program has helped me greatly with my finances and it's helped me to rebuild my credit and my self-esteem," she says.

This past November the YWCA held a recognition ceremony for six women who completed the program. In addition, last year alone the Phyllis Wheatley Program provided services to 63 women -- some of whom emerged from the Transitional Housing Program, while others either enrolled in colleges, found permanent housing or became first-time homeowners.  "At any one time there are probably 15-20 women who are consistently and regularly reaching a greater level of self-sufficiency," says Nevels.

And self-sufficiency is what Glenn says she's striving to attain.  "I hope to be debt free-to buy a home, to go back to school and to be around my grandchildren," says Glenn. "I'd also like to own a real estate company."

Nevels says that sometimes the complexities of the barriers that the women must overcome can be challenging, "but then each victory is a testament that the hard work does pay off.  My greatest reward is seeing women overcome their barriers and meet their challenges," says Nevels.

"Transitional housing is a beautiful thing," Glenn says. "It not only helps you to get back on your feet---but it helps you start walking again."  Note: In July, 2017, YWCA Transitional Housing Program became the YWCA Permanent Supportive Housing Program.