Assisi House Announces New Executive Director: Megan Armentrout-Steward
For the first time in its 9 year history, Assisi House will have an official Executive Director.
“We couldn’t be more proud to announce that Megan Armentrout-Steward has accepted our offer for the position of Executive Director of the Assisi House organization,” said current Board President Lisa "Shine" Cagle.
Assisi House isn’t the first organization where Megan worked with the unhoused community. After graduating with her BSW from George Fox University in 2014, she first worked at a drop-in center in Portland, OR, that provided services for people who were unhoused. She came back to St. Louis to pursue her MSW with the goal of gaining more skills, knowledge, and relationships to address the systems that drive inequality.
After earning her MSW, Megan worked with a private foundation in nonprofit funding, which gave her a high level view of the nonprofit sector in St. Louis. She also built many relationships and worked collaboratively with communities and organizations that aim to address food insecurity, systems racism, and poverty.
Then, in a big career shift, Megan joined the Assisi House team in 2019 as the Program & Volunteer Director. “I missed direct services and working with and learning from the people who are most impacted by the issues policy is trying to solve,” explains Megan. “I was drawn to Assisi House, in particular, because of its creative solution to a complex problem and the commitment to relationship, accompaniment, and dignity. I’ve always believed that policy and practice must inform each other, and this role accomplishes that."
It was a big shift for Megan, and a big change for Assisi House.
“We’ve been largely volunteer-run throughout our history, and that’s been an important part of who we are; so hiring full-time staff was a big deal for us!,” remarks Co-Founder Jerry King who has served as a sort of default director for the past 9 years.
While Megan’s new position indicated “volunteer management,” the pandemic made keeping volunteers and residents at the multiple houses connected an incredibly difficult feat to do safely.
Having a large number of people coming in and out of the houses during the height of COVID was not something that felt safe for the residents, or for the volunteers, many of whom are older adults who are at high risk if they contract COVID. And vaccines were a long time coming.
In fact, that’s one of Megan’s first big achievements: she led the organization through a global pandemic and got early access to vaccines for residents, staff, and key volunteers.
Megan was also able to take programs that she had envisioned prior to COVID and use them to provide quality services to Assisi House residents throughout the pandemic.
For example, the Accompaniment Partners program was a key way of keeping residents in relationship when it was not safe for large numbers of volunteers to be inside the houses where people were living. The program matches residents with a volunteer primarily for the purpose of relationship and connection. Seeing each other as persons and individuals, each with our own goals and histories is a key part of why Assisi House exists, and Megan values that commitment to personalism.
Another program Megan started is the Rent Forgiveness program to ease the burden of a large rent debt that a resident may have accumulated due to unforeseen circumstances.
“We exist in a really niche but necessary segment of very affordable housing,” explains Shine. “Our residents pay about $260 per month, which is just enough for the organization to break even on basic building-related expenses,” she continues. “But even that small amount can be too much when bad luck hits -- or, you know, a global pandemic strikes that impacts employment, transportation, and everything else.”
Megan’s visionary leadership has also extended to proposing Assisi House’s first expansion into Alton, IL. She has worked to build out a network of partners there to successfully replicate the program in a new community.
Beyond her ability to envision and create something new, Megan has also helped make sure Assisi House is paying attention to the details that matter. She formalized the intake and referral process for new residents, and formed partnerships with various referral sources in St. Louis like St. Patrick Center, Independence Center, Concordance Academy, Bridge Bread, and Places for People. These partnerships and others have been essential to connecting residents with life-saving resources such as healthcare, mental health support, rehab and treatment, employment, and dental care.
Megan remarks that her biggest success at the organization has been building trusting relationships with the residents of Assisi House and getting to experience the joy they bring to her life.
When asked her greatest personal achievement, she says it is her son, Forrest, who she hopes to raise up in a world that shows compassion and care for the most vulnerable.
We couldn’t be happier to welcome you in this new role, Megan!