With help of federal funds, St. Louis working on winter outreach program for the unhoused

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – For those facing housing insecurity or may currently be living outdoors, the City of St. Louis has money and a plan to help the situation, including emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, and a city-sanctioned encampment.

“There are those who are literally out on the streets in places not fit for habitation. Then there are those who are on the verge of losing their residence,” said Yusef Scoggin, director of the city’s Department of Human Services. “So, we want to attack those from both places, certainly sheltering and permanent housing supports is helping in addressing who we see on the streets but also the rental dollars through the emergency rental assistance program but also important to stopping the pipeline of folks into homelessness.”

Scoggin took over the department in October for Valerie Russell, who had run DHS since Feb. 2020.

“It’s everything from mortgage assistance, to outdoor shelter, to outdoor safe spaces, and safe havens and case management,” Scoggin said. “Oftentimes we think about the things we can see and number of beds we can count but we know every life that comes through those places need assistance.”

Mayor Tishaura Jones office said this is the first time an administration in St. Louis has done this in recent memory.

There’s hope the city’s winter outreach plan, as well as a sizeable chunk of money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), will make a difference.

The city will receive about $40 million for short-term winter support for people at various stages of housing insecurity and making long-term plans for outreach and programs.

“In December, first we’ll launch our overflow activities,” Scoggin said. “We’ll have our warming bus operating here in downtown that will provide warming for individuals as they transfer to our overflow spaces. In addition, we’ll support individuals when the temperature is 32 degrees or lower.

“What we also have coming online are additional contracts for the ARPA funds more than $40 million, so we’re feverishly going through those making sure we’re making the right decisions with contracting to provide those support. So those will be additional beds brought online in the next several weeks.”

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