The City of St. Louis today announced plans to close three homeless encampments along the riverfront between Mullanphy and Dickson streets. The closing will take place in stages beginning May 4th. About 30 residents remain in the riverfront encampments.
Prior to closure, professional staff from the Department of Human Services and its partnering private agencies will work with remaining occupants to assess individual situations and needs. Occupants of the encampments will continue to be offered housing assistance during the closing process.
This is a continuation of an assessment and re-housing process that began last fall. Encampment occupants started relocating in September of 2011, resulting in a total of 38 persons moving from the area. Originally, a total of 61 persons were identified as residents of the encampments. Persons in need of immediate care will continue to be referred for services.
"The solution to homelessness is homes, not temporary encampments," said Mayor Francis G. Slay. "We are committed to offering stable, decent housing to people living in the encampments. But allowing the encampments to remain is no longer an option."
"The encampments have attracted a great deal of attention to the problems of homeless persons," added Bill Siedhoff, Director of Human Services. "But they are not safe places for people to live, and they are certainly not a long-term answer to the problem."
The City had taken the position that it would allow the encampments as long as the people living there did not bother or hurt themselves or others, and as long as public safety and public health was not put in jeopardy. Unfortunately, several occupants of the encampments have been victims of violent crimes, including fights and stabbings, which resulted in the death of one occupant. Such violence resulted in a large number of police service calls. Additionally, several tents were consumed by fires and rat infestations were discovered throughout the area.
City officials met with leaders of the encampments to inform them of the housing plan and impending closures. Manager of Homeless Services Antoinette Triplett and her staff also informed all occupants of the plan. City workers will be posting signs this morning specifying the closing timeline.
The City today also simultaneously issued an appeal to faith-based and community groups to assist in making the transition as smooth as possible. Financial contributions can be made to the United Way of Greater St. Louis-Encampment Relocation Fund, 910 N. 10th St., St. Louis, MO 63101 or by calling (314) 657-1702. Additionally, the launch of a Community Companionship Program will offer one-on-one friendship and support to those who are relocated into housing.