Independence shelter for homeless, pregnant teens works to rebuild after fire

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - The volunteers and leaders at Mother's Refuge teach hope and resiliency to pregnant teenagers.

Executive Director Robert Zornes knows his non-profit organization will have to lean on those two ideals to rebuild the shelter badly damaged by a fire.

Flames ripped through the Mother's Refuge home on the 3700 block of Delridge Road in Independence, Mo., Monday evening. Zornes expects doors to be closed there for months.

RELATED | Fire damages Independence shelter for homeless, pregnant teens

The four women and two babies displaced by the fire were taken in by a volunteer for the night.

Zornes said the girls were obviously shaken by the unpredictable chain of events.

"All of our bedrooms need to be rebuilt. There's a lot of water damage in the basement. I think most of our furnishings are probably destroyed because of smoke and water," he explained.

But he's confident the shelter will rebuild. The reason behind that hope is the great need for its services. He told 41 Action News he fields up to 75 phone calls a week from mothers in need of help.

Before the fire, the shelter could house eight women and a handful of babies at a time.

Through its 25 years, the shelter has helped more than 1,200 women and babies, Zornes said.

"We don't do it for the money or for any other reason but because I want to help those who are less fortunate. It's my calling," he said tearfully. "We want to continue."

To continue, he'll need the help of the community. Zornes said volunteers already helped them build Mother's Refuge by way of donated money, time and furnishings. Now, they'll lean on the community to help them build back what was lost.

The women and children displaced by the fire have been offered a two-month long stay at Drumm Farm to continue with Mother's Refuge. Zornes said the fire will not stop the much-needed services the program provides.

Mother's Refuge offers more than shelter. It provides therapy and educational resources for the women who stay there. In the fiscal year that ended in July, Mother's Refuge offered 1,785 beds to women who needed a safe place to sleep.

For more information about Mother's Refuge, go to

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