ST. LOUIS – A tent city that had been growing outside St. Louis City Hall in recent weeks came to an end Tuesday evening. Fencing surrounded the building on Market Street by 7 p.m. Signs along the locked, metal gates read, “Park Closed for Restoration.”
The administration of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones cited fights, reports of city workers being accosted, police calls, and medical emergencies as reasons for acting Monday when the city announced it would enforce a park curfew on the property.
Some residents remained Tuesday morning. City officials said outreach workers have been engaging the community for weeks, offering resources. Advocates for the homeless say the St. Louis region lacks adequate housing options.
Diata Crockett watched as the fencing was put in place. He was once homeless and believes the city needs more housing options. Crockett suggests using vacant school buildings.
“Put some programs in there to help these homeless people,” he said.
Some aldermen are pushing for legislation aimed at addressing the situation.
Some of the residents who were living in the park space that is now fenced off believe the action is only a band-aid attempt to address a bigger problem.
“There’s still going to be homeless people, and they got to go somewhere,” Ronald Jospeh said.
Justin Morgan said, “We have nowhere to sleep.”
Late Tuesday, a statement released on behalf of Mayor Jones indicated the city has invested nearly $20 million in American Rescue Plan funds to expand access to the city shelter. The expanded capacity ensured a bed was available to every person who wanted one and helped connect encampment residents with resources, according to the statement.
Jones also gave credit to city employees, outreach workers, forestry and parks workers, and St. Louis Alderman Rasheen Aldridge Jr. (Ward 14) for working to de-escalate tensions and coordinate the outreach efforts.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Mayor Jones said in a statement, “The Department of Human Services has conducted outreach at the site at least 35 times over the past 65 days in an effort to connect individuals with permanent housing, shelter, and supportive services. More than a dozen have accepted the resources offered to them so far. DHS has also partnered with Behavioral Health Response and Affinia Healthcare to offer resources and services. All individuals at the encampment have been offered shelter with supportive services on numerous occasions and will be offered shelter again tonight, as we have space available.”