St. Louis motels turn to homeless shelters in wake of COVID-19

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS – Two St. Louis motels and one hotel have become shelters for the homeless. The city is paying for about 200 rooms and providing 24/7 security.

The Red Roof Inn off Hampton has seen a spike in police calls, according to a list of calls for service Fox 2 obtained through a public record’s request. We found dozens of additional calls for assaults, fights, and rape.

The St. Louis Department of Public Safety asked city sheriff’s deputies to monitor the area until last week’s riots. Now a private security company is watching.

Fox 2 asked the St. Louis mayor’s office what it’s costing to house homeless in hotels with security and programs during the pandemic. The officer reported about $800,000 through June, which the city hopes to get back from the federal government.

“The coronavirus has created just all kinds of unexpected situations, right? And this is one outgrowth of that that,” said Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed. “We had to get them off of the streets and into some temporary housing solution.”

Other temporary locations include the Western Inn Motel on North Broadway where we saw a St. Louis police car. The Western Inn was reportedly the first place where homeless were moved after their tents were taken down at a downtown encampment. Thirty-three rooms are reportedly being used for the unhoused.

Another close to 20 rooms are booked for the homeless at the Mark Twain Hotel and 9th and Pine downtown.

Reed said the next challenge will be finding stability after the pandemic.

“When you have that permanent housing and you go for a job interview, you have all of those things that help stabilize the family,” he said. “You can take a shower, you have all of your things right there.”

The mayor’s office declined to discuss the issue beyond providing numbers of 200 homeless impacted at a cost of $800,000 so far. Alderman Cara Spencer, who’s challenging Mayor Lyda Krewson in the election, said we can do better.

“The homeless population does not help drive business downtown and it can be a real problem, but it is also a problem for the people experiencing homelessness,” Spencer said. “We have an opportunity here to create a long-term solution by building up those community organizations that serve our unhoused.”

“Many people experiencing homelessness are simply down on their luck. I mean, with the economy the way it is and the unemployment rate, we have had a lot of people displaced.”

Reed said that we also need to watch people who may be on the brink.

“For utility assistance and rental assistance, they can contact the city and apply for some support through the City of St. Louis for utility assistance and rental assistance so they don’t find themselves homeless also,” he said.

St. Louisans can apply for funding through the Affordable Housing Commission.

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