Please consider joining us for this fun event to support the work of Peace for Kids, a Queen of Peace Center Program.
All proceeds will go to support early childhood education center.
Audrey Collins’ kitchen table is quite possibly the best vantage point in her home.
Leaning her chair with her back against the wall, Collins can look to her left and see into the kitchen and whoever might be knocking at her front door. Ahead of her is a cozy living room and hallway. It’s a wide-open view that she can’t get anywhere else in her place.
It’s also a new view that’s quite refreshing after battling an on-and-off addiction to crack cocaine for years. Collins has been clean for five years now, thanks to the help of Queen of Peace Center, a Catholic Charities federation agency that provides treatment to women who battle addictions, such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and a helping hand to them and their families.
Last year, Queen of Peace Center hired Collins as residential manager of the Pope Apartments, a new permanent housing site. Located in the Penrose neighborhood of north St. Louis, the apartment complex has 12 units — all of which are already occupied — and provides a safe, secure place for women who have successfully fought their addictions and are moving on in their lives. Queen of Peace Center hosted an open house in October.
In 2011, the agency provided nearly 2,500 women with treatment services through its 14 programs. There were 113 pregnant women who received services. Nearly 40 percent of clients were homeless upon admission. Sixty-five percent of clients had co-occurring disorders, meaning they battled more than one addiction or had a combined addiction and mental health issue. About half of all clients were uninsured and the other half on Medicaid.
At the Pope Apartments, Collins is a “go to” for residents. It’s an around-the-clock job that comes with a great responsibility. During the day, she works at Queen of Peace Center with the Missouri Screening Brief Intervention Referral to Treatment, a program that screens individuals for risky behavior associated with drug, alcohol and tobacco use. The program is part of a statewide initiative through the Missouri Institute of Mental Health.
Lending her personal experience with drug addiction, Collins provides a perspective of someone who’s been there. In a sense, she’s become a mother-like figure to the women who live there, answering questions about property maintenance or directing them to resources they need to live their lives or care for their children. Her third-floor apartment, which gives a sweeping view of the city around her, often is a place where she will meet one-on-one with residents to talk about life or just how their day went.
“I have an open-door policy, and they use it,” she said.
Queen of Peace Center’s executive director, Lara Pennington, noted that permanent housing provides women an opportunity to rebuild their lives after addiction and provides a safe place they can call home. “It used to be that they just didn’t want to lose their place, but now they just want to stay away from the mess” that can come with a drug or alcohol addiction. “This is a place where they are starting their lives again,” she said.
Pennington, who is a social worker, became executive director in January. She succeeded Connie Neumann, who retired after 23 years at the agency. Pennington said that the Pope Apartments was Neumann’s “big project” before her retirement.
The apartments took a “village of investors,” including the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the St. Louis Mental Health Board and the St. Louis Equity Fund. Other groups contributed, including a women’s giving circle at St. John Lutheran Church in Ellisville, who raised funding to purchase playground equipment.
Queen of Peace Center has two other permanent housing sites, the Visitation Apartments near Visitation/St. Ann Shrine in north St. Louis, which opened in June 2011, and at Queen of Peace’s main location at Cathedral Tower in the Central West End.
Permanent housing residents receive rental assistance vouchers through Shelter Plus Care, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program that provides housing and other services to homeless individuals with disabilities, mental illness, chronic addictions or other major illnesses. Other clients who receive Shelter Plus Care vouchers through Queen of Peace Center are renting apartments in various parts of St. Louis.
Beyond permanent housing, Queen of Peace provides residential treatment at four locations and has a transitional housing program, which provides a safe place to live for up to two years and helps women and their families eventually move into permanent housing.
Treatment is a requirement in order to receive assistance with shelter, said Pennington. “This provides a system of accountability,” she said. “They get the care and have support here.”
Collins said she was lucky to have a supportive family as she battled her drug addiction. The 51-year-old, who had received treatment at Queen of Peace Center several times since 1992, had three children — a son who is now 20, a daughter who died of cancer during childhood, and another son, now 4. At one point, she had lost custody of her children, but her parental rights were not terminated. That helped her to maintain a relationship with her children, even as she fought to get off crack.
“I was a derelict, I was homeless,” she said. “I would do anything to get my drugs of choice. I’m caught many times shaking my head” in disbelief of what happened. “I have children who loved me through my addiction.”
These days, Collins is giving back to her family after the support they gave her. Her father, who lives just a few minutes away from her new apartment, is now battling Alzheimer’s disease. She’s helping him move into a new place where he can receive better care and is spending as much time with him as she can.
She told a reporter, “as soon as we’re done here, I’m going to pick him up so we can go for a drive.”
Coming out of her addiction, Collins said, “was the most magical feeling. I was able to feel again. (Being on drugs) was like punching an endless time clock — it was an endless cycle of struggle and work.”
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Give the gift of life this holiday season. Every dollar counts.
Thank you for your generosity, support and faith in the work we do to help women and children.
Our 2012 fall fundraising event, Sip In Style, is only two weeks away!
Please call or email to reserve your tickets.
Check out a sneak peek at some of our exciting auction items below!
Silent Auction -
Oral Auction -
Please call Patricia Seeler for more information or reservations.
314-531-0511, ext 108
Queen of Peace Center has been struck with Cardinal Fever. Not only are we happy that the Cards are in the playoffs, but we have a lot to be grateful for because of our hometown heroes. Queen of Peace Center was recently able to showcase the 2011 World Series Trophy for our clients and staff to pose with and admire. For nearly two hours, we were able to pretend that the Trophy was “ours” (with a few rules of course– no touching, no stealing, just gazing). This fun event brought out the Cardinal’s spirit in everyone.
This fall, the Center was awarded a grant from the Cardinals Care to support our early childhood development center, Peace for Kids. With funding from Cardinals Care, Queen of Peace Center will be able to purchase new cribs for our infants at Peace for Kids.
Thank you Cardinals. Here’s to post-season bliss!