From Handout to Hand-up, Send Relief in Greater St. Louis Helps Unhoused Community Feel Seen

By Send Relief Staff

There is a unified community in the Midwest bound together by hope and love. In this city, you will find people who rally around its most vulnerable, full of grit and tenacity. This community is Ferguson, Missouri. While the name is frequently associated with images of national unrest and a community fractured by racial tension, Ferguson, along with the rest of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area, is more than the tragic event that occurred nearly 10 years ago. The story of Ferguson is one of healing and restoration, not division, and Send Relief, alongside a dedicated community, is helping rewrite the narrative.

“If you come to St. Louis, you will see that what we have here is so beautiful,” said Traci Byrd, a St. Louis native and the St. Louis Ministry Center Coordinator for Send Relief. “It is very close-knit, and everyone knows each other—from your neighbor to the people who are unhoused.”

Brian’s story illustrates this very well. On a hot summer day, Traci and her team of Send Relief volunteers went around the city to provide water and food to those who were unhoused. They found Brian, a 60-year-old disabled man, on the train tracks.

“When [Brian] met us for the first time and realized I was the one who had been leaving him food and water, he opened up,” said Traci.

In a deep conversation, they learned he was forced out of his apartment building after it was condemned by the city and closed. With the help of Send Relief and community partners like H.O.P.E. (Housing Options Provided for the Elderly, Inc.), within hours Brian was provided dedicated lodging with only one roommate and guaranteed support over the next 24 months to secure permanent housing.

The key to this lasting solution is relationship building. Send Relief builds relationships one conversation, one shared meal at a time to pull off sustainable solutions like this one. Relationships include rapport with local churches, organizations, city officials, officers, and more importantly, the people in need. They understand, as Traci emphasizes, “Relationship promotes action.”

This missional and relational focus sparked greater action to immediately follow. In one day, Send Relief missionaries, working alongside community partners, quickly transformed their building space into a hub of activity for individuals with similar circumstances to Brian. Individuals could come in and receive food, water, toiletries, and time to play games and talk with volunteers. For many, it offered a chance for human connection and to be seen and heard.

“I was told, ‘Thanks for seeing me,’ and ‘Now I don’t have to cope with drinking to stop being depressed or think about being homeless,’” said Traci. “We must continue to move beyond a donor-client relationship to go deeper, to create opportunities like this to be tangible expressions of the gospel.”

Brian’s story, and the activity hub started one day after learning about Brian and his fellow displaced neighbors, are just some of the many undertakings of Send Relief. Send Relief, alongside its dedicated leaders and city residents like Traci, has been building stronger communities and repainting how the city is portrayed one brushstroke at a time.

“There is an amazing connectedness that is not just happening but has always been here,” said Traci.

Traci’s hope is that this connectedness extends beyond St. Louis’ borders, so she equips visiting Send Relief volunteers and partners with the tools and resources needed to replicate this model of compassionate service in their own communities.

“We want missionaries to leave here with a mind shift, heart change and a desire to create opportunities to share the gospel and for others to share their hardships and their heart,” said Traci.

Published July 5, 2024

Send Relief Staff