Dear Friends,

There is a service organization in Shreveport called Jewell House that has been supported by St. Mark's Cathedral since its inception.  Jewell House serves members of our community who are often in the greatest risk of uncertainty and criminal activity - abused female youth aged 13-21.  As the father of two daughters, it would be redundant to tell you about the sense of urgency that I have concerning these young women.  Their plight also presses upon me given that we are entering a season that is about a young woman who found herself in the midst of circumstances beyond her own imagining; for whom God provided a protector named Joseph.

For the first time in its history, Jewell House is experiencing a funding shortfall due to circumstances beyond their control.

The following piece was run a few years ago.

Melody Brumble; 9:25 a.m. CST January 2, 2014: The Advisor

Monique Washington faced an uncertain future until she moved into Jewell House.

“When I had my son, me and my son were living on the streets. I was 17,” Washington said. “I gave my son to my cousin to raise, and some church members brought me to Jewell House. I was living in an abandoned house.”

Jewell House opened in 2008 to provide a safe haven for runaway and homeless teen and young adult women. Director Pitre Walker said the program is a response to the calls she gets as homeless services coordinator for the Caddo Parish school system.

The first nationwide count of homeless youth, conducted in early 2013, found 46,924 “unaccompanied homeless youth” 24 and younger, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Before then, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and agencies serving the homeless didn't’t look specifically at homeless children, teens and young adults living apart from parents or family members.

Locally, the count found 422 unaccompanied youth. Some bounce from relative to relative because their parents are in jail. Others end up on the streets where human predators lurk.

“(Sex) trafficking is real,” Walker said. “They’re looking for prey. They’re looking for young girls, runaways and abused children.”

Walker and board president Margaret Walker, a retired Caddo Parish educator, aim to make Jewell House a home. Residents have to pitch in on the chores and must follow rules — including no male visitors — but they have their own rooms and live as much like a family as possible. Joy Fund money will help the program provide basics like toiletries and help cover Christmas gift expenses.

Washington is looking forward to a home of her own in time for her birthday in May. She also plans to study culinary arts at Bossier Parish Community College. She graduated from Fair Park High School in Shreveport in 2012.

“I took culinary arts all four years in high school,” she said.

Walker said Jewell House staff members focus on the residents’ education and preparation for work, career programs or college. Most residents work in the summer and learn how to bank and save money. Walker said the goal is to help girls who can’t go home become self-sufficient adults.

“We have had eight girls who graduated from high school. Six of them went to college, one went into the military and one went to beauty school,” Walker said.

Please read this letter from St Marks Community Ministries Chair, Candace Higginbotham for further information:

Dear Friends,

Not far from St. Mark’s Cathedral is a ministry known as Jewel House.  Located at 1068 Dalzell in the Highland area of Shreveport, Jewell House is a transitional living facility, providing 24-hour emergency and transitional housing for homeless girls. Licensed by the State of Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services, Jewell House serves homeless, throwaway, runaway, neglected, and abused female youth between the ages of 13-21 years old.  It was the first of its kind in north Louisiana designed specifically to serve this target population and is the only one to provide shelter beyond 21 days. Staffed by licensed social workers working in three eight hour shifts per day, Jewell House also offers and coordinates a range of essential wraparound services, such as academic, tutorial, case management, and counseling.

Homelessness has a devastating impact on the personal lives and educational opportunities for youth.   Homeless girls are particularly vulnerable.  Operated by Youth Outreach Services, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, Jewell House is committed to helping the most vulnerable youth in northwest Louisiana and surrounding rural communities who are living on the streets, homeless, or at-risk of being homeless.  They have a consistent record of success.  Three Jewell House residents graduated from high school last May.  One entered the military, the other two are attending college at LSU-S and SUSLA.  A former resident graduated from Grambling this summer; another is completing her master’s degree in Chicago. Among their current residents is a young woman who is attending a local business college and working.  Two of the girls are ages 16 and 14.  All are attending school.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

For the first time in their history, due to a change in grant scheduling and state budget deficits, Jewel House is experiencing a funding shortfall and is in need of support to continue providing services for the remainder of the year.  To make matters worse, this is a particularly difficult time of year, when referrals typically rise. 

St. Mark’s has been a partner in this ministry since its inception in 2008.  A member of St. Mark’s Community Ministries Committee visits this facility at least once a month.  The committee receives annual progress reports.  I am writing to ask you to consider making a donation to support this critical ministry on the outskirts of our neighborhood.  Donations will be used for direct care staff, utilities, basic necessities and food. 

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me or Candace Higginbotham, chair of the Community Ministries Committee.  She can be reached at (318) 470-3001.  Or you can send checks to:

The Dean's Discretionary Account, Jewell House, 908 Rutherford Street, Shreveport, LA, 71104

Blessings and Godspeed,