ST. LOUIS – Homeless advocates met at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Soulard on Monday morning to discuss bringing forward an unhoused bill of rights to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
“As a community, we cannot complain about encampments while also opposing the creation of homeless shelters to help our most vulnerable neighbors break the cycle of homeless,” Board of Alderman President Megan Green said.
Green did not have copies of the board bill proposal Monday morning, but her group says there are not enough beds for the city’s unhoused population, which has set up tents along the riverfront, outside businesses, and city hall recently.
Green says she’s familiar with homelessness. In the mid-2000s, she worked at the now-closed Shalom House shelter.
Under the current system, Green says new shelters must get the signatures of 51% of homeowners living within 500 feet of a proposed community shelter.
Central to the unhoused bill of rights is zoning reform.
“This week, I will be introducing a slate of new legislation that establishes the unhoused bill of rights and creates a pathway for our city to de-concentrate poverty,” Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier (Ward 7).
Green and Sonnier’s proposal requires notice and a public hearing for opening new or micro shelters for eight to 10 people. The proposal would decriminalize activities like loitering and panhandling and create safe spaces for tents with mobile showers.
On Monday morning, one man shared with the crowd the experience of living in a tent and being evicted.
“The unlawful eviction of camps is something you can’t imagine until you’re involved in it,” said JB, representative of the unhoused community “For a lot of us, everything we have in the tent is all we have to our names. We find somewhere to go, they come kick us out. It’s like sweeping the trash from one side to the other, only it’s not trash. These are human beings we are talking about.”