St. Louis Homeless Why we have a problem?

St. Louis has a homeless problem. The question remains is why?

Recent statistics show that the St. Louis area has over 1500 homeless people. The tragedy of this is that about 1/3 of these are children.  On any given night there are approximately two hundred people that have no place to go.

For the record lets define homeless as a person who doesn’t have a home living on a street. Therefore those that are sleeping in shelters and cars are considered homeless.  Some folks even consider staying at a motel homeless as well because they do not provide any Landlord-Tenant protection.

Yes the homeless people are in three classes. The first class is the career homeless person.  These are the people that have been homeless for a long time and no nothing but being homeless.  They have totally given up or almost to that point and have no hope or desire to try anymore.

The second class is those with mental illnesses. Although not the same we also group in those with substance abuse problems.  These are persons that need specific specialized type of assistance.

The last group is those that are there sometimes due to no choice of their own or they just made the wrong mistake. Some of these causes could include loss of a job, divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, just to name a few.

Add to the problem of the homeless the City of St. Louis isn’t helping but merely using band aids. Current the City is in a legal battle with Larry Rice’s shelter at 1411 Locust Street. On one side we have a shelter that wants to stay open and assist the homeless and on the other side we have all the new development in the area that want him closed down due to the loiterers, drunks, drugs, and noise.

The park just down the road from Larry Rice’s new Evangelical Shelter has been fenced up and all the benches removed. This use to be a hangout for the homeless during the day as well as a spot for them to wait till the shelters opened up.  Now they are forced to the sidewalks in the area.

A downtown city park across from the Central Library use to be a place for the homeless as well as the outreach ministries that travelled downtown to serve the homeless. Not that long ago the City Health Department issued a vacate order stating that park was a breeding place for rats and fleas.  There now sits a police cruiser in the middle of the park deterring people to enter the park.

In addition the city aldermen are considering an ordinance that would require all outreach ministries to be licensed to serve the needy. In other words if you are an outreach ministry and you serve the needy you would be required to be licensed to serve in any city street or sidewalk.

The Harbor Light Shelter recently closed its doors as they are building a new building. When they reopen they will not be offering any transitional housing.

Another victim in the war against homelessness is the Bridge that housed its program at Centenary United Methodist Church on Olive. They recently closed their doors due to the expiration of their lease.  They used to provide day shelter as well as meals to the homeless.  At the moment there are no future plans.

There are many agencies out there that will assist but as time moves on they start to fall by the wayside. Two shelters that still going strong are St. Peter & Paul as well as Sunshine Ministries.  Larry Rice’s NELS so long as he can manage to keep it open.  The St. Patrick Center offer assistance in clothing, food, meals, in addition to training, employment assistance, and counseling.

The City has committed millions of dollars to renovate an old market building on North Tucker to utilize as a shelter. It is supposed to be able to house up to 95 single men and accommodate up to 125 persons during the day.  Recently they opened the day portion but have delayed the overnight shelter till they hire and train staff.

Is it enough?

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