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Readers Opposed To Licenses To Help Homeless

Homelessness is a problem everywhere around the world, though not at the same rates.

What’s even more surprising than the discrepancy in homeless populations between the two cities is the fact that Tokyo, at 13.4 million people, is larger than New York City (8.4 million people) and Los Angeles (3.9 million people) combined. While the rate of homelessness in New York is currently 67 for every 10,000 people, in Tokyo there is just one homeless individual for every 10,000 city residents.

Why the massive discrepancy in rates of homelessness between two of the most populous cities in the world?

As with most socioeconomic phenomena, there are a number of contributing factors. First and foremost, income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the United States, while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries. One principal measure of income inequality is the GINI coefficient, a measure from 0.0 (perfect equality) to 1.0 (perfect inequality). Recent surveys in the two countries found a GINI coefficient in Japan of 0.32, while in the US that rate was 0.41. However, income inequality can’t be the only explanation for Japan’s success combatting homelessness, especially considering that the country’s inequality index has actually worsened over the past few decades.

Where Japan is really surpassing the United States, instead, is in the social safety net it offers its citizens. (Think Progress)

Our safety net is full of holes, allowing far too many people to become homeless.

Richard Gere recently portrayed a homeless man.

Two hours of trying to find a place to sleep, trying to get identification to receive benefits.

Here are the results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree? St. Louis should require those giving food to the homeless to have a license?

  • Strongly agree 8 [18.18%]
  • Agree 4 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.27%]
  • Neither agree or disagreei 2 [4.55%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [6.82%]
  • Disagree 8 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [34.09%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [6.82%]

Nearly 60% disagree with requiring a license, I’m in the middle. Every day I pass the homeless and the criminals that prey on them, I often see a new person with a suitcase. A church group unloading baloney sandwiches from a trunk isn’t helpful as a warm meal indoors. Those doing so think it’ll help them after they’ve died, but I’d rather offer real help in the present.

I’ve helped two people who were homeless in downtown St. Louis. The first lived in a property I owned for over a year as he got a job and rebuilt his life. He’s remarried and they recently bought a home together. The more recent person is still struggling, but he was able to leave St. Louis a few years ago. I brought both food — fresh fruit. They’ve both been in our loft, guests for a home-cooked meal. It’s rare that I meet anyone on the street that I feel comfortable with inviting into our home.

The sight of crowds of homeless, and those who prey on them, crowding around a car/van must further lower the spirits of those in that situation. Of course, we don’t want anyone dropping dead due to starvation, but all of society would be better off if we improved our safety net and then improved our ability to get people off the street and into housing. It’s also cheaper.

But this is St. Louis, we don’t do what’s best. In June police drove into the park between Soldiers Memorial and the library to run off the homeless.

June 23
June 23
June 28
June 28

Like most parks downtown, this one no longer has any benches. No reason for anyone to be there.

Those newly on the street need to be housed quickly before they become accustomed to life on the streets. An overnight cot isn’t the same thing. This requires social workers. The license bill shouldn’t become law, but it would be nice if those who want to help took action to actually help. Volunteer at places that feed the homeless warm meals indoors, provide stable housing, etc.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Require A License To Give Food To The Homeless?

Please vote below
Please vote below

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen are on their Summer break, when they return they’ll take up Board Bill 66:

The measure would require a vendor’s license to distribute food, blankets or other goods on city sidewalks or parks — even if those items are being given away. It would also make it illegal to give anything away between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The following is today’s poll question:

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson


“Do You Have A Home?”

Living at 16th & Locust is very convenient to the downtown central business district (CBD), central library, city hall, numerous MetroBus lines, Washington Ave nightlife, etc.  It’s also very close to where many of the region’s homeless hang out — not a problem for me. In fact, when I’m out in my wheelchair I’m often mistaken as homeless. My white middle-class neighbors ignore me on the sidewalk, church groups passing out food from car trunks/vans offer me a meal, the homeless ask me if I have a cigarette or light.

Part of it is that I rarely dress to impress, shorts/faded jeans  & t-shirt are common. Another is the wheelchair. My power chair is now seven years old, it’s showing its age. Still, few disabled homeless have power chairs, most use manual wheelchairs. Still, I think many assume a person in a wheelchair passing the library is a homeless person.

Students return to Lafayette Preparatory Academy from outdoor time at Lucas Park's playground, August 2013 photo
Students return to Lafayette Preparatory Academy from outdoor time at Lucas Park’s playground, August 2013 photo. Click image for school website

As is often the case I was returning home from Culinaria as grade school students were returning from recess in Lucas Park. The Locust sidewalk is narrow next to the building so I waited as they passed by, many of the kids said hello as they walked single-file past me. But one girl asked, “Do You Have A Home?” Caught off guard, I quickly replied, “Yes, a few blocks away — a nice loft.”

I didn’t expect such a question, earlier that morning I attended the ULI presentation on the Railway Exchange Building (see What To Do With 1.2 Million Square Feet In The Railway Exchange Building) — I was dressed my best that day: new jeans, white dress shirt, custom-made sport coat. Weeks later is still bothers me this little girl thought I was homeless.

A 2011 interior photo of our loft
A 2011 photo of our loft, I’ve lived here since November 2007

I do think kids raised seeing all facets of society will be better prepared for life when they go out on their own, those raised strictly within their economic class will need to adjust more as adults. I’ll likely email the staff at Lafayette Prep to inquire about their conversations with students about homelessness.

— Steve Patterson


Homeless Need Housing Longer Than Overnight

Over the years many have said us downtown loft dwellers don’t want to see the homeless, which is why we want to close Larry Rice’s overnight emergency shelter NLEC. This view many be valid for some of my neighbors, but it doesn’t apply to me or most no doubt, it is heart-wrenching to see people sleeping in doorways, carrying all their possessions in a trash bag. What the solution?

Last year the Board of Adjustment ruled NLEC is a nuisance, in May 2015 must limit beds for homeless to 32 or close
Last year the Board of Adjustment ruled NLEC is a nuisance, in May 2015 must limit beds for homeless to 32 or close

Overnight shelters, like NLEC, do provide a cot, a sandwich, and perhaps a shower — for 12 hours. The next morning they’re sent back out into the streets. The cycle repeats without getting to the root problems that caused the person to become homeless. To me keeping the homeless just above water is cruel.

The homeless can’t do it on their own, none of the world’s deities are going to help either. It’s entirely up to us — baloney sandwiches and an overnight cot aren’t enough.

Only from the stability of a small apartment can they hope to get substance issues under control, learn to prepare meals, be able to get/hold a job. This is unlikely on the street.

Emergency overnight shelters are still necessary when the weather is extreme, but only as a short-term solution. The total cost per person is less when they’re in an apartment vs on the street.

Everyone benefits — except those whose business model is based on hundreds remaining on the streets.

— Steve Patterson


Former Harbor Light Emergency Shelter Now 58 Apartments

It’s Friday so I like to end the week with some good news. This morning the Salvation Army will cut the ribbon on their 3010 Washington Apartments project:

For more than a century, the property at 3010 Washington Boulevard has been synonymous with transforming lives of those in the greatest need in St. Louis.
Today, The Salvation Army will provide a pathway of hope, deterring homelessness for individuals with special needs in the St. Louis area with the development of 3010 Apartments.

Joining the Veterans’ Residence as a part of the Midtown project, 3010 Apartments houses 58 one-bedroom units universally designed for individuals with a variety of special needs. Each apartment features a full bathroom, kitchen and living/dining area.

The facility itself also includes amenities such as a computer lab, laundry and 24-hour security. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places and located near culture hub Grand Center, the 3010 Apartments will provide residents with a safe space to incorporate and build lifelong skills.

It’s nice to see a previously-shaddy emergency shelter becoming renovated apartments for the homeless.

October 2011 photo of the former Salvation Army's Harbor Light shelter, today is the grand opening of 58 apartments in the building
October 2011 photo of the former Salvation Army’s Harbor Light shelter, today is the grand opening of 58 apartments in the building

A home, now matter how small, is better than a temporary cot without security or privacy. I’m looking forward to touring this facility today.

— Steve Patterson