More calls for action over St. Louis homeless as concert series looms

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – The Riverfront homeless community is calling upon the city to figure out a housing solution as they face fears of eviction or confrontation from crowds that will fill Laclede’s Landing for a concert series.

Jam Presents is in the final stages of setting up a concert series.

The event will run for six weeks and with it bring crowds and attention to those living a few steps away.

“We have zero intention of displacing or evicting the unhoused,” according to a statement.

“We selected the site before the tent encampment arrived, and we adjusted our site plan as the situation developed to ensure that the pavilion area remains untouched.”

Yet barriers remain.

“They’re going to have a concert here,” homeless resident Randy Willis said.

“We won’t have a place to stay because everywhere in St. Louis, it’s either a type of homeless shelter or another homeless shelter that would accept us but at the same time those homeless shelters aren’t the best for every individual.”

Some of the homeless have had talks with the city about finding a solution but nothing has been settled on.

One of those handling discussions is J.B. He’s lived with the riverfront community for over two years.

He stays here because he said after falling on hard times, the lack of resources and COVID-19 made it impossible to find permanent housing.

“I wanted somewhere where women could come, children, they can be safe and comfortable,” J.B. said. “And there’s something calming about the water here, there’s not as much tension here.”

J.B. And the 13 other homeless, including a 3-year-old, believe the best solution would be for the city to house them temporarily in local hotels.

Right now, the city says they don’t have enough money for this but federal funding is coming soon for a more permanent solution.

All beds for the city’s current emergency hotel housing are occupied, and COVID-19 restrictions have limited space in shelters.

The administration has allocated more than $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding for bridge housing, emergency shelters, wrap-around services, rapid rehousing programs, and more to help provide unhoused residents resources and connect them to permanent housing solutions.

The city said they are moving to set up these programs as quickly as possible. 

“My hope is that everything goes successfully l but my concern is a negative interaction between the public and ourselves because I fear we may be on the losing end,” J.B. said.

Another homeless resident was concerned about the ripple effects of the series as well.

“We don’t do nothin’, we don’t cause no trouble. I mean if they kick us out of here, all that’s going to do is put us back here in the middle of downtown where they’re not wanting us at,” Craig Igou said.

Right now the city has no plans to evict anyone but fears of what may happen during this concert series continue.

Despite this, the riverfront community plans to hold a press conference at the Mayor’s Office on Thursday- the day the concert begins.

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