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Saturday Jubilee Food Drive July 30th

July 23, 2011 Downtown, Events/Meetings, Homeless Comments Off on Saturday Jubilee Food Drive July 30th

A week from today, Saturday July 30, 2011, is Saturday Jubilee:

“Together we can help area families through the toughest economic times we have known. We have the opportunity to be the change we are seeking. In an area of plenty, let us show our gratitude by giving back.”

Non-perishable food items will be collected (9am-5pm) at numerous grocery stores throughout the St. Louis region. Food collected at four stores will go directly to The Bridge St. Louis, which serves thousands of meals per month to the homeless.

I will be volunteering at Schnuck’s Culinaria (315 N. 9th Street  63101) from 9am-11am. The other three locations benefitting The Bridge are:

Again, the drive is from 9am-5pm. Please plan to grocery shop that day, purchasing just one or two items on the provided list will be very helpful.

In the month of June The Bridge:

  • Served 12,741 meals to 5,700 persons
  • Provided mail service to 1,627 persons
  • Had 271 volunteers provide 870 service hours.

That’s a lot of food! You can follow The Bridge on Facebook & Twitter.

– Steve Patterson



The Sound of a Suitcase Being Dragged

July 22, 2011 Downtown, Homeless 5 Comments

While I was waiting at 16th & Olive for the #10 bus the other day, I heard someone dragging something in the street behind me. Eventually a man passes by me and then makes his way up onto the sidewalk. The suitcase had no wheels, the bottom was in shreds.

My assumption is he is homeless. I say it that way because he may not be, but if not, he is probably close. Most likely everything he owns is in that ragged suitcase.

This post has no point, the sound of that suitcase on the asphalt stuck with me.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Sympathetic to Homeless Residents of Riverfront Tent Camps

June 22, 2011 Homeless 25 Comments
ABOVE: western edge of Hopeville next to an abandoned rail line

Visiting the “Hopeville” camp recently was one of the most depressing experiences in recent memory for me.  I can’t imagine living that way, but I’m a bit spoiled.   I did get a sense of community in the 2+ hours I was there from things such as two raised planter beds with flowers, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

An organization has a good list of the Types of Homelessness:

People are homeless for diverse reasons. Because of this, a one-size-fits-all formula for homelessness does not exist. Listed below are the six main types of homelessness that we have identified in our work with the homeless since 1984.

Short-Term Houselessness: When a traumatic event occurs such as a house fire or natural disaster, people with positive relational resources, solid inner resources & sufficient physical resources are able to recover in a short period of time, usually within 30 days.

Long-Term Houselessness: Much like Short-Term Houselessness, the loss of a house is the result of an unforeseen event, except in this situation the people who are affected have modest physical resources which lengthens the amount of time it takes to recover, sometimes up to 120 days.

Permanently Supported Homelessness: The Permanently-Supported Homeless population lacks both relational & inner resources due to mental or physical disability & must rely upon outside resources to provide the goods & services needed to sustain life.

Near Homelessness: Those in the Near Homeless category have overextended their personal support systems, which keeps them on the brink of homelessness. Literally “one paycheck away from homelessness,” these folks cannot withstand any type of setback. The loss of a job, roommate, or vehicle can easily push them over the edge.

Self-Induced Homelessness: Self-induced homeless persons reject their relational resources by refusing to cooperate or submit to any form of authority. As a result, they are unable to maintain housing, employment or any type of productive relationship.

Environmentally Dysfunctional Homelessness: This segment of the homeless population has experienced a series of traumatic events, often a result of the toxic environment in which they were exposed. Broken, dysfunctional or non-existent relational resources have severely weakened their inner resources making it almost impossible for them to sustain the physical resources needed for stability. War Veterans can fall into this type of homelessness when their inner resources are unable to withstand the traumatic events of war.

I got the feeling that some individuals living in the camp don’t want permanent housing.  Most used to live in the now demolished railroad tunnel under N. Tucker. There they weren’t visible and they were more protected from the elements.  But now we see them, an unsettling situation to some.  To me it is a fact of life that a small percentage of any population will be homeless by choice or due to mental illness, addiction or other factors.

To pare $7 million from its $23 billion budget, the state cut loose more than 4,000 Missourians with mental illness who had depended on the emergency rooms and 88 in-patient beds at these facilities. The curtain was brought down abruptly and amid great uncertainty over where this vulnerable population would go — or could be taken — in times of crisis. (STLtoday.com)

In the poll last week readers got to weigh in on the issue:

Q: What, if anything, should St. Louis do about the homeless camps on the north riverfront?

  1. Provide alternate land to use that has running water,power, restrooms and some shelters (ie: campground) 20 [15.27%]
  2. Force them to leave immediately 17 [12.98%]
  3. Offer them annual lease option from City of St. Louis. Lease would require sub-leases with all residents. Rent would be paid with required volunteer service. 17 [12.98%]
  4. House them in safe supportive apartments 17 [12.98%]
  5. Put them on a bus to somewhere else 15 [11.45%]
  6. Nothing 12 [9.16%]
  7. Allow them to remain but charge for trash service and cite for maintenance violations 10 [7.63%]
  8. Fund more emergency / transitional housing 9 [6.87%]
  9. Arrest them for trespassing 5 [3.82%]
  10. Other answer… 5 [3.82%]
  11. Provide services to make them more comfortable 4 [3.05%]

Fifteen people picked to bus the homeless elsewhere, they must not realize that St. Louis is where other cities in the region send their homeless. The safe & supportive housing option also isn’t realistic with this group unless you want to lock them up to make sure they stay. So what do you do? I think a campground with some basics is a good idea.  This is also an idea that Larry Rice supports, which makes me question my own support.

The “other” answers supplied by readers were:

  1. crappers
  2. Pub. housing in exch. 4 comm. service
  3. teach them to do the “thriller” dance as a group, then use internet pr
  4. Bus them to the county.
  5. Get the county and others to help fund and participate in a solution.

There are portable toilets on site. The Thriller dance idea is humorous but not sure how it would help them.

ABOVE: View of the floodwall from deep within Hopeville

Last week HUD released the 200+ page 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report:

More than 1.59 million people spent at least 1 night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program during the 2010 AHAR reporting period, a 2.2 percent increase from 2009. Most users of homeless shelters used only emergency shelter (78.7 percent), while 17 percent used only transitional housing, and less than 5 percent used both emergency shelter and transitional housing during the reporting period.

Those who are homeless are that way due to many factors.  To the family who find themselves homeless due to a foreclosure require a different solution than the individual who can’t stay sober.

The land currently being used is owned by the City of St. Louis, although records indicate part is leased to electric utility Ameren. I have no idea if water &/or sewer lines exist in the area but a slightly more orderly campground might be the best solution for the less than 100 people at three camps near the floodwall.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: What, If Anything, Should St. Louis Do About the Homeless Camps on the North Riverfront?


ABOVE: sign at the entrance to Hopeville

St. Louis, like so many other cities has homeless camps, ours are located along the Mississippi riverfront just north of Laclede’s Landing.

St. Louis streets are home to more than 1,300 people on any given day. Just north of the Gateway Arch are a number of people, huddled in tents, adding to those numbers.

Littered with tents, just west of the flood wall, separating the Mississippi from the city, sits a group of people who prefer living on the streets over housing. (KSDK)

Yesterday I visited the largest of the three, Hopeville, with about 50 residents. Sparta and Dignity Harbor each have about 20. All three camps occupy a stretch of land just west of the flood wall between Mullanphy and Dickson (aerial).

ABOVE: A raised bed at Hopeville. Another had peppers, tomatoes & basil

Recently one camp resident was stabbed by another:

In response to the killing, city officials hinted that the camps might be eliminated by the end of summer. A few days after the stabbing, three aldermen representing parts of downtown sent Mayor Francis Slay a letter arguing that a “take it or leave it” plan might exacerbate the problems. They urged him to include elected officials, community and business leaders and the homeless in the city’s search for solutions to camps of homeless people on the riverfront. (St. Louis Beacon)

The victim was the camp’s leader, he got involved when one resident was being aggresive with another. I spent over two hours at Hopeville, sitting and talking with residents, including the new leader Moe.

ABOVE: tents next to an abandoned railroad spur as a train passes in the background

Here is the poll question and the answers I’ve provided:

Q: What, if anything, should St. Louis do about the homeless camps on the north riverfront?

  • Nothing
  • Force them to leave immediately
  • Provide services to make them more comfortable there
  • Provide alternate land to use that has running water,power, restrooms and some shelters (ie: campground)
  • Arrest them for trespassing
  • Put them on a bus to somewhere else
  • Fund more emergency / transitional housing
  • House them in safe supportive apartments
  • Allow them to remain but charge for trash service and cite for maintenance violations
  • Offer them annual lease option from City of St. Louis. Lease would require sub-leases with all residents. Rent would be paid with required volunteer service

These answers are presented in a random order on the poll, located in the upper right corner.  Thanks to Jay Swaboda, Kathleeen Wilder and Brian Matthews for their feedback on the poll wording. Check back on Wednesday June 22nd for the poll results and for my thoughts.

– Steve Patterson

5235 Page


Three Downtown Aldermen Seek Place for Stakeholders on Discussion of Homeless Encampments

May 12, 2011 Downtown, Homeless 26 Comments
ABOVE: North riverfront area where homeless tent cities exist

Last week the three aldermen representing downtown sent the following letter to Mayor Slay:

Dear Mayor Slay:

As the Alderwomen who represent our city’s downtown area, we write you today regarding news reports that local government is developing plans to relocate the homeless men and women living along the downtown banks of the Mississippi River. Recent events have drawn increased attention to these encampments, however their presence is an ongoing regional issue that predates even the beginning of your administration ten years ago. We commend your office for showing leadership on this important issue and taking the first steps toward implementing solutions that work for St. Louis’ most vulnerable and impoverished residents.

We look forward to being included in the process that develops the best approaches and solutions for this population. A lasting solution requires input from community leaders and residents. As you know, local partnerships, like the St. Louis City Continuum of Care, work with the homeless population day in and day out. They know the needs and problems that face this community and ought to be part of the solution for its future. Other stakeholders, such as nearby residents and business owners, should also be heard.

In short, this is a longstanding issue that requires an enduring solution. The proper approach must be delicate and allow the voices of those who directly serve and represent this population to be present at the planning table. Throughout the process, elected officials, social service agencies and community leaders should be able to offer their input, thoughts and guidance to ensure that this is a permanent approach to a decades-long issue. A process that neglects their advice or excludes their participation is simply a recipe for failure.

We urge you to reject any approach that does not include the numerous stakeholders involved in this issue. A “take it or leave it” plan developed without proper input and participation is inappropriate here and will only exacerbate existing problems surrounding this situation.

Thank you for your consideration of our position. We look forward to collaborating with you and your office on this issue, and the many others that face our great city.



Hon. April Ford-Griffin, Alderwoman Ward 5

Hon. Kacie Starr Triplett, Alderwoman Ward 6

Hon. Phyllis Young, Alderwoman Ward 7

Last week I was nominated to the board of The Bridge:

The Bridge provides sanctuary for homeless and at-risk persons in St. Louis. Meals and support services for basic human needs are offered by a staff intent on eradicating homelessness by guiding guests on a path to self-sufficiency.

If elected to the board, the three-year term will begin in July. I look forward to learning more about this complex issue and exploring possible actions. I first typed solutions but I’m realistic enough to know homeless will always exist in our city & region. Our policies, however, can vary greatly.

– Steve Patterson