Peter & Paul Community Services seeks to expand homeless services with purchase of former Little Sisters of the Poor residence

Stanley Goforth, who recently came to St. Louis from Oklahoma City, talked following lunch April 29 at Peter & Paul Community Services’ emergency shelter in the basement of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis. Behind Goforth was Andre Scruggs of St. Louis. Peter & Paul Community Services plans to relocate the shelter to the former Little Sisters of the Poor St. Louis Residence in north St. Louis. Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand

By Jennifer Brinker

Originally published in the St. Louis Review. Continue reading or visit archstl.com.

Peter & Paul Community Services has purchased the former Little Sisters of the Poor St. Louis Residence in north St. Louis, and with that, it seeks to double its footprint for homeless services over the next few years.

The nonprofit organization closed on April 15 on the 188,000-square-foot building, 3225 North Florissant Ave. in the St. Louis Place neighborhood, for $3 million using city and state American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The purchase comes after more than two years of searching and a contentious debate about other proposed sites for a new facility.

The site will be known as Peter & Paul Community Campus. Plans include relocating its emergency shelter, currently located in the basement of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Soulard, and expanding it from 60 to 100 beds. The agency is looking to relocate other programs and form partnerships with nonprofit organizations interested in co-locating services.

Peter & Paul Community Services currently serves 116 people every night, and with the addition of the new building, the hope is to expand services to more than 300 people in the next several years. “The site will easily become the largest homeless services space in St. Louis as we expand to full capacity,” CEO Anthony D’Agostino said. “We’re thinking about this as an expansion rather than completely shifting our presence.”

Shelter monitor Tiffany Nelson prepared lunch for men April 29 at Peter & Paul Community Services’ emergency shelter. Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand

The 4.5-acre site includes an eight-story tower, commercial kitchen and dining room, a 15-unit apartment building, a 26-room convent, a chapel, multiple secure parking lots and private green space. The Little Sisters of the Poor operated it as a residence for the elderly poor until 2018; the religious community withdrew from St. Louis due to aging and a decrease in sufficient vocations to effectively staff the residence.

D’Agostino described the building as an “all-in-one” space that has the capacity to expand on its transitional and permanent supportive housing programs, provide space for intake services and programming, and hopefully form partnerships with other nonprofit organizations in the community to provide needed services.

The agency seeks to raise about $13 million in the next few years, which D’Agostino said is “very doable considering the space and how many people we can actually serve here.” The organization recently received a $15,000 grant from the Annual Catholic Appeal via the Archbishop’s Charity Fund for essential repairs to the facility.

Peter & Paul Community Services was established in 1981 as an ecumenical effort involving Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Vincent de Paul parishes and Trinity Lutheran church. The group started with a winter shelter in the basement of Sts. Peter and Paul, and its programs today continue to be supported by Catholics and dozens of parishes.

“We were born in a church, and we continue to operate with that charism,” D’Agostino said. “It’s really exciting to bring our presence here.”

Other programs include transitional housing programs such as Positive Directions for men living with HIV/AIDS; the Benedict Joseph Labre Center to serve men and women living with mental illness; the Community CollabARTive art program; and Garfield Place Apartments, which provides permanent supportive housing for men and women who face chronic homelessness. All of those programs are located in south St. Louis.

The former Little Sisters of the Poor building has operated as a homeless shelter since 2020, an effort in conjunction with the City of St. Louis and several organizations. D’Agostino said they will work with the city to keep current residents while expanding services in the building.