ST. LOUIS – There’s a large part of lawn outside of City Hall in Downtown St. Louis that has become a growing homeless encampment.
And recently, there’s been increasing conversation on what to do about it.
On Friday, ahead of a busy weekend in St. Louis, FOX 2 has learned of at least 30 tents on the lawn of City Hall. With that comes piles of trash and smells growing daily.
Sherresse Anita Jackson, a mother of four, tells FOX 2 she was evicted for not being able to pay her rent.
“Where is the money being spent? They say the homeless are a problem if they had some place to go. I’m out here too,“ said Jackson.
Board of Aldermen President Megan Green says there’s just not enough shelter space. “Until we get to a place where we build that shelter capacity, we are going to see things like encampments,” she said.
Aldermen are considering a homeless bill of right to mandate places where the homeless could camp without the threat of being removed. The city would also provide showers, toilets and access to services, 24 hours each day.
Rev. Larry Rice who has worked with the homeless for years says the growth of the camp illustrates the struggle and challenges the city has.
“We have a real big problem in this region, and that is homeless people urgently needing help and not getting it,” said Rice. “They are exercising their first amendment rights to protest. This is what the camp is all about.”
Rice is an advocate for a former downtown homeless shelter known as the New Life Evangelistic Center. A push to open it hit a roadblock this week as the Board of Building Appeals for the City of St. Louis rejected a permit bid.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office tells FOX 2 that the city has no immediate plans to remove the camp. The St. Louis Department of Human Services visits multiple times a week to offer people housing and resources.
The mayor’s office says that available shelters are at 82% capacity and that there is space for people in need.