Vinson Mortgage Charity of Choice: BACK@YOU

As winter approaches, we’re proudly supporting an organization that provides much-needed supplies to the homeless. BACK@YOU has a simple mission: to raise awareness and to act from compassion, kindness, and understanding in helping the homeless.

St. Louis has a homeless population of 1,750. 39% of those people are children, and 26% of them are military veterans. Aside from the obvious struggles faced by homeless people, one element that BACK@YOU wants to combat is invisibility. It’s too easy for many of us to look the other way, or to react out of fear without taking the time to recognize the person in front of us. Homelessness is a problem that all too often goes ignored and undiscussed. We’re proud to shine a light on this important issue this month with our support of BACK@YOU.

One Person Sets Out to Make a Difference

BACK@YOU was conceived in late 2014 by Founder, Director and President Kathy Acre, who spent years working in Section 8 to secure housing for homeless and at-risk families in St. Louis. Wanting to do more, Kathy began volunteering at soup kitchens and shelters. Spending more and more time interacting with the homeless community in St. Louis, she noticed that many people kept their few possessions in plastic bags. She decided to do something small to help.

Growing Support for BACK@YOU

She bought 20 backpacks and began filling them with personal care items and winter accessories. The driving factor in Kathy’s effort is that she wants to bring dignity and visibility to the homeless people she interacts with. Wanting something in the backpacks that would feel like a personal gift, Kathy knit scarves by hand for each backpack. As she discussed the idea more and more, people contacted her to get involved.

backpacks with scarves

The initial 20 backpacks were handed out in November 2014. Since then, the organization has grown. They distributed 200 backpacks in 2015 and 400 backpacks in 2016, almost a quarter of the homeless population in St. Louis. Their goal is to continue to grow so that they can help as many people as possible.

Get Involved with BACK@YOU

BACK@YOU receives most of their donations from private individuals. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can knit scarves, donate other supplies for the backpacks (gloves, socks, hoodies, toiletries, pens, notebooks, etc.), and contribute money to the organization via their PayPal. There is a comprehensive list of items, ways to volunteer and contact information on the BACK@YOU website. If you live outside St. Louis and want to help the homeless in your city, BACK@YOU has kindly assembled a map of various organizations doing similar work across the United States.