They show up on the doorstep because there’s nowhere else to go.
By JENNIFER BHARGAVA
Special to The Star
Emotionally exhausted, financially drained and sometimes even physically abused, homeless women from all walks of life gravitate toward the Princess House in northeast Kansas City, desperately seeking a roof over their heads.
But earlier this year, that roof had deteriorated so badly that it might have shut down the women’s shelter.
Then a Northland company came to the rescue.
A volunteer notified the Angie’s List Wishmakers program about the situation. The program pairs highly-rated service companies with those in need. Christian Brothers Roofing, a faith-based organization in Parkville, stepped forward.
Last week, the company spent three days building a new roof for the safe haven, free of charge. A national roofing supplier, Roofing Supply Group donated high-quality supplies.
The story of the Princess House — and the loving spirit of Sarita Graham, the organization’s founder and executive director — touched both companies deeply, said Christian Brothers Roofing owner Scott Horstmann.
Graham established the Princess House in 2005 in honor of her deceased 24-year-old daughter, also named Sarita.
The shelter serves homeless women who have been released from prison, suffered substance abuse, have mental health issues, are veterans, or are victims of domestic abuse.
“We don’t know how damaged they are when they get here, but we love them when they get here,” Graham said. “Many of these women are frightened and lost. Our goal is to give them their life back.”
With the help of mentors, pastors and other community leaders, the shelter provides GED classes, life skills training, job interview preparation, Bible studies and housing placement.
Earlier this year, Graham and the 21 residents of Princess House began noticing the that the roof was getting worse and worse.
Nasty leaks appeared. Raccoons built nests and scurried overhead. A foul smell emerged.
The group held the first of what was expected to be several fundraisers last spring, where the women worked as waitresses at a restaurant to save up money. They earned $200, but quotes for a new roof were as high as $60,000.
Frightened and broken-hearted, Graham put her trust in God. She knew the roof wouldn’t last through the winter, but she clung to her spirituality.
Then Christian Brothers Roofing and Roofing Supply Group answered her prayers.
“I’m speechless,” Graham said with tears in her eyes. “I’m truly a faithful believer and I’ve been seeing the Scripture come to life before my eyes. Just to experience it is breathtaking.”
The gratitude was mutual.
“We are being overpaid by the love Sarita is giving to these women,” said Horstmann.
Those who know Graham are delighted, but not surprised, by the generosity being bestowed upon the Princess House.
“This place really is a miracle,” said Princess House administrator Violet Betts. “The door is always revolving with so many different women who just come here with nothing but the clothes on their back. And Sarita takes money out of her own pockets and helps them. I don’t know how she does it.”
Two years ago, Betts was one of those women.
“I was a hurt woman coming to a shelter and she fed me,” she said. “Sarita helped me turn my life around, just as she does for all these other women. She treats everyone like they’re the most special person in the world, which is inspiring.”
Through her organization, Sarita Lynne Ministries, Graham has also established two transitional living houses in Kansas City for men — Isaiah’s Place and Joshua’s Safe Haven — and gives the residents food, clothing and hygiene products.
Anyone interested in donating items or providing financial assistance should visit www.saritalynneministries.com.