Pagedale’s change of heart for group that helps women leaving prison

PAGEDALE, Mo. – A north St. Louis County organization helping women just out of prison is breathing a sigh of relief after our story on some obstacles they faced from the city of Pagedale. After being told no regarding a new facility, city leaders have had a change of heart.

The not-for-profit SoulFisher Ministries works with women while they’re still in prison and helps their transition back to civilian life, providing them resources toward housing, job training, counseling, and a variety of other services so they remain productive.

Shawntelle Fisher, CEO of SoulFisher Ministries, said they wanted to renovate an abandoned building in Pagedale, but their requests were rebuffed.

However, the city seems to have come around following a FOX 2 report earlier this month.

“So, a lot has happened since we did the first reports. The mayor did actually reach out to me. We have had several conversations that kind of shifted the feel of this project,” Fisher said. “And at the end, she ascertained that this would be a great opportunity not only for the city of Pagedale, but for the community as a whole.”

Amanda Sullivan, recently released from prison, says she’s fortunate to have the support and backing from an organization like this.

“Well, for me, I went to prison five times. So to have something like this is a game-changer, and potentially a life-changer for all of us if we want it to be,” she said. “You have to make a decision, but for them to come alongside us and help us, hold our hand, and kind of be there for us, is just a Godsend, for real.”

The not-for-profit has a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Justice and a $4 million grant from the Federal Education Department, as well as others.

The work is critical, Fisher says. She did 14 years in prison herself. But upon her release, she earned three bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree.

“It’s so important, because as I shared during our first interview, most people who go to prison will come back to our community, and we have to be determined to make sure that when people return home—because this is their home—that they have a running chance at being successful and being a contributing member in the community that they’re expected to be a part off,” she said.

Fisher believes things would be far worse without programs like this.

“They’ll be back out on the street, they’ll be back out breaking the law, they’ll be back out committing crimes, they’ll be back in prison, and taxpayers will be the ones responsible for footing the bill for the prisons,” she said.

The construction on the building begins later this summer, and Fisher hopes to open by Jan. 1, 2024.

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