Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Charity Issue: Starting clover

The+Irish+Open+is+a+mulit+day+Golf+and+Gala+Event+to+raise+money+for+St.+Patrick+Center.
Claire Schlarman
The Irish Open is a mulit day Golf and Gala Event to raise money for St. Patrick Center.

While her family slept on the floor of her friend’s home in New Orleans, Deidra Thomas-Murray was wide awake, watching the news like her life depended on it. The wind howled in the shaky T.V. broadcast; Hurricane Katrina had just hit Florida and she was sure New Orleans was up next. She knew she and her family couldn’t stay, so a decision had to be made. They had to leave everything behind and make the journey to St. Louis.

Thomas-Murray is one of the many clients who has been helped by St. Patrick Center throughout its 40-year long legacy of aiding those experiencing homelessness across the greater St. Louis area. By providing sustainable housing, employment, and healthcare to their clients, the organization seeks to transform their lives.

St. Patrick Center strives to achieve this goal through the Housing First Model. According to their website and Brenna Shea, Communications Manager for St. Patrick Center, this model focuses on providing housing for their clients before starting the search for a job in order to eventually be able to fully support themselves.
“Instead of someone saying you have to be sober or get a job before you [can earn] a house, we adopted the Housing First Model,” Shea said. “When people have a safe place such as an apartment, a shelter or a group home, they are set up for success.”

It was just unimaginable to think that there are children sleeping unhoused [like this].

— Thomas-Murray

In January of 2023, St. Patrick Center expanded its outreach by renovating an old church into a 24-hour safe haven called the Grace House. In order to serve as many people as possible, they ensured there were minimal requirements to be a client.

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“Many other shelters have strict rules and a curfew, which might be hard for an individual [in tough situations] to follow,” Shea said. “The Grace House is a good transition where people can rest, store their belongings and get breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Scott Fitzer, former Ambassador Chair for St. Patrick Center, said he loves helping those in need. Because there are only four ambassador meetings per year, Fitzer said he finds other ways to be active in the community. He organizes food and coat drives, plus Thanksgiving meals to share with clients.

“A few years ago, my family and I put together gallon bags with warm socks, Hot Hands, gloves, and snacks for [those in need]” Fitzer said. “When you stop [on the road] and someone comes up asking for cash when it’s especially cold, being able to hand someone a gallon bag of hope and let them know that there is a place to go to get help [is amazing].”

Every year, the golf tournament is absolutely a blast.

— Fitzer

In addition to Fitzers’s experience on the board, he oversees the Irish Open, St. Patrick’s largest fundraiser. The multi-day event is held every summer at Union Station, complete with a reception, live auctions, and a round of golf at Norwood Country Club.

“Every year, the golf tournament is absolutely a blast,” Fitzer said. “It’s an excellent chance to be surrounded by charitable folks who care about the St. Louis community.”

The event also features clients who are willing to share their story about how St. Patrick Center helped them. While former client Thomas-Murray was not a guest speaker for this event, she has spoken at many others including the National Homeless Conference, the National Women’s Political Caucus and Department of Education meetings. Soon after she arrived in St. Louis she said St. Patrick assisted her in getting her first job.

“I went through St. Patrick Center, building my resume and trying to regain some sense of stability,” Thomas-Murray said. “One of the workers connected me to the Salvation Army Care Line, [who] were looking for a [family] therapist.”

After her first job, she went on to become the Director for Students in Transition for St. Louis Public Schools, where she actively fights to give students who are homeless and in foster care an equal and free education.

She also organized a “Sleep Out” at the National Homeless Conference, where she and SLPS district staff slept on the lawn of the Washington D.C Board of Education building in order to raise awareness for homelessness across the United States.

“It was exciting and sad at the same time,” Thomas-Murray said. “I’m ex-military, so I thought sleeping outside would be ideal, like you’re camping, but I did not rest at all because of the noise. It was just unimaginable to think that there are children sleeping unhoused [like this].”

Thomas-Murray continues to fight to raise awareness for homelessness and for everyone to have the right to a stable education. To read more about what St. Patrick Center has done for the St. Louis community or the impact they have had on their clients, visit their website at stpatrickcenter.org.

“A lot of times, [people] think that they have to silently suffer, but that’s not the case,” Thomas-Murray said. “I want people to know that there is support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

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Avery Haden, news writer
She/Her Hobbies and Interests: reading, writing, running, hiking Favorite song: In My Mind by Lyn LapidIn Favorite Quote: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
She/Her Hobbies and Interests: playing acoustic/electric guitar Favorite movie: White Chicks Favorite Quote: "To make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste!" -Call Me by Your Name
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