ST. LOUIS — Signs have been posted: the City of St. Louis is shutting down another homeless encampment. This one is just north of the Gateway Arch.
At the same time, another tent village is growing about 8 miles away, near the River Des Peres in south St. Louis. The city will remove a long-standing tent village at the entrance to the old President Casino on Laclede’s Landing on May 2.
An estimated 30 people are currently staying there.
There are concerns the River Des Peres site may grow when the Laclede’s Landing location is removed. A dozen or so tents scattered atop the banks of the River Des Peres near Hampton and Gravois. The tents are close to neighborhood homes and businesses.
There have been complaints about shoplifting open drug use, indecency, public urination, and defecation. There was a fire in a trash pen behind a former ‘Steak n Shake’ restaurant. Last Fall, a homeless man walked in front of a passing vehicle and was struck and killed.
A nearby homeowner, who did not want to share his identity, told FOX 2 News, that he had gone from being “accepting” of the tents to demanding their removal.
“It’s been ongoing in varying degrees for nine months,” the resident said. “The last three to three-and-a-half weeks, it’s ramped up into overdrive. They were right (camping) behind my house.”
“Homelessness is a destination we reach from a million different paths,” said St. Louis 12th Ward Alderman, Bill Stephens. The tent village is in his south St. Louis ward. “Each and every person is a unique case (but) at the end of the day people are sleeping on the embankment of the River Des Deres. So, I’m hoping we can find a swift resolution that does result in permanent placement or at least a better temporary housing situation.”
The notices posted at the Laclede’s Landing tent village say, “Shelter and housing will be offered to occupants of the encampment.”
Those occupants often have trouble meeting identification and curfew requirements and end up back in tents somewhere else, according to an occupant known as “J.B.”. He remained skeptical of the City’s posted promise.
“Some of these people are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or older. To have ‘one night out a week’ or curfews it’s like they’re setting up a system for us to fail so they can say we tried to help these people but they don’t want it,” J.B. said.
Stephens pointed out new approaches, including the city’s tiny home transitional housing village, among others. The tiny homes had a 75% success rate, he said, but the waiting list was about 50 people deep.
Resources remained the biggest issue, he said. There’s this notion that we already have enough. If we already had enough, we wouldn’t have individuals sleeping on the River Des Peres,” he said.
Staff from the City’s Human Services department would be visiting the River Des Peres encampment Monday night in hope of mapping out the best solution for all, Stephens said.
The City of St. Louis is expanding resources for the homeless.
A spokesman released the following statement:
The City of St. Louis is committed to supporting unhoused neighbors, programming $18 million in American Rescue Plan funds to increase our number of shelter beds, expand programs and connect individuals with permanent housing. The City has budgeted for more social workers to help connect unhoused individuals to supportive services and reduce burden on our providers. Outreach workers with the Department of Human Services have already begun to engage individuals at this location to assess needs and next steps.