ST. LOUIS — A bill on the table in St. Louis City would make homeless encampments illegal, such as the ones near the River Des Peres and Laclede’s Landing, if they are on the right of way.
“It needs to be illegal to place a tent in a right of way,” said 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg. “Now, we aren’t coming heavy-handed with any kind of enforcement or punitive damages. We are simply saying it’s illegal you need to move, and then the idea is we plug them into the service.”
He said the bill passed out of the public safety committee 7 to 0 and now heads for a second reading Friday. If it’s perfected as is, it could head to Mayor Tishaura Jones’ desk in two weeks and become law.
Oldenburg said it is dangerous for those living in tents and those nearby. He said there have been more than 200 crashes near the River Des Peres and 30 percent of them included the driver losing control. He said the driver could easily crash into a tent and hurt the person living inside, but that’s not the only concern. He said Thursday he received several calls with the same concern.
“Several needles were found as well as defecation and other unhealthy unsanitary things taking place,” he said. “So, it’s moved from the safety of those in the tents, and now we have to worry about the safety of those in the area. And there’s been several complaints from the businesses along here as well.”
Also on Thursday, FOX 2 confirmed EMS was on the scene near Laclede’s Landing to transport a person living in a tent after a reported drug overdose. First responders said the person was in serious condition. Those who work in the area told FOX 2 they are fed up, but the news of this bill has not been widely accepted
“I hope the people doing this to us or trying to do this to us never become homeless,” one man experiencing homelessness said. He has a tent set up along the River Des Peres.
“Why don’t you give us an opportunity for something better,” he added. “We’re not trying to rob you or rob the stores. We are just out here until we find something better. We are just trying to stay out of the rain.”
Many people on both sides of this argument agree that more resources for housing, transportation, and job placement are needed.