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Poll on displacing homeless living under the Tucker bridge

ABOVE: The strech of Tucker to be rebuilt passes in front of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ABOVE: The stretch of Tucker to be rebuilt passes in front of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Last Friday was the final deadline the City of St. Louis gave to the homeless persons living in the old railway tunnel under Tucker Blvd.

The homeless living in a place called ‘Hopeville’ have to be out from the Tucker Tunnel before 8 a.m. Friday in preparation for the City of St. Louis’ $34 million construction project. However, some homeless have resisted the move, waiting until the last minute.

Two homeless men are hanging onto what they call home at Tucker Tunnel.  (KSDK)

The name “Hopeville” is a recent name for the space under the road.  Others have called it scary and dangerous.  The deadline is now past and the removal of the tunnel and collapsing road will proceed.

ABOVE: Tucker Blvd is completely closed north of Cole St
ABOVE: Tucker Blvd is completely closed north of Cole St

The poll this week seeks to find out your thoughts about removing the homeless to reconstruct this stretch of Tucker Blvd.  The poll is in the right sidebar.

– Steve Pattersoon


Most readers don’t give change to homeless on the street

February 18, 2010 Homeless, Sunday Poll 5 Comments

Over 250 people responded to the poll last week:

Q: When a homeless person asks you for change, do you give it to them?

  1. never: 143 [56.3%]
  2. sometimes: 87 [34.3%]
  3. frequently: 20 [7.9%]
  4. n/a — I don’t visit places where there are homeless: 4 [1.6%]
  5. always: 0 [0%]

Four people live sheltered lives if they don’t go where they may encounter a homeless person. The majority do not give change to the homeless.  While I count myself among those who do not give change,  I do give other ways.  It is important to note is not every panhandler is homeless.  But often the homeless do panhandle to raise money.   Here is a story of the homeless:

‘I asked what he meant and heard a story that was to be repeated to me by many people. Each person I asked told me essentially the same thing: they were ignored as if they did not exist.

A pattern began to emerge. First was the loss of work, then housing, going begging to GA (General Assistance, welfare) where they were treated like second class citizens and beggars. Not finding a bed at the shelter, they are hassled on the streets by police. Then finally they get the courage, yes I mean courage, to ask others for a little change.

A person must feel awfully low inside to have to resort to panhandling as a way of getting money for food and a place to sleep, let along clean clothes and phone change. (Bus money to look for work is about as far as GA money goes).

A person gets tired of sleeping on the streets. I know. Men are lucky to get a shelter bed once or twice a month. Women fare a little better with a couple of nights a week, but even that gets tiring. After a while you need to sleep in a real bed, have some privacy, and take a bath alone. But you do not have money for a hotel room. Where do you get the money? Your last resort, panhandling. When you begin to see what a person must go through day after day, month after month, you gain a little understanding.

But you ask what you could do.

The reason why I was not yelled at was that I acknowledged panhandlers. I let them know I knew they existed. It was not much, just a look saying that I cannot help. I would look at them, pat my pocket, and show an empty hand, or I pointed behind me with my thumb indicating I gave what I could to the last one who asked me. Sometimes I have just said “sorry.” I have also said “not this time,” “I wish I could help,” or “I just gave to the last guy.” All of which was true; I would never lie.

When I did these small things I said a lot more than my words did. I said to them, “I acknowledge you exist, I do not look down on you, you are no less a human being than I, and I respect you as a person.” All that in a gesture or a few words.

A person who is down on their luck needs a little dignity left inside. If you look, you can even see the depression in their eyes. Panhandling is their last resort as it takes the loss of a lot of self respect to do it. And courage to look someone in the face and say, “I need your help.”  – Rae Chamberlain’

Acknowledging the homeless takes very little effort on my part but it means so much to them to not be ignored. Here are some other tips:

  • Don’t ignore them. say hello, good afternoon or just make eye contact.  It is okay to give them dignity.
  • Buy What’s Up magazine (or the street newspaper in your city)
  • Give money to and/or volunteer at organizations that work directly with the homeless in your community.


An interesting way to give change is located in the  Central West End:

“The Central West End Association and the City of St. Louis have announced the launch of the “Real Change” campaign. The goal of the campaign is to discourage the random giving of money to panhandlers while encouraging contributions to local social service providers. The campaign is conjuction with a new city ordinance restricting panhandling.

Parking meters donated by the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office have been installed at four locations in the Central West End. These meters will be used to collect change that will be distributed to area service providers. In addition, neighborhood businesses will distribute cards informing residents and visitors of the campaign and encouraging participation in “real change.” (Real Change program)

Homelessness continues to exist primarily in urban areas but that is changing:

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual survey last year found homelessness remained steady at about 1.6 million people, but the percentage of rural or suburban homelessness rose from 23 percent to 32 percent. The 2009 HUD report, which reflected the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2008, also found the number of sheltered homeless families grew from about 473,000 to 517,000.  (NY Times: Suburban Homeless: Rising Tide of Women, Families)

Suburban & rural communities need to address homelessness and the plan can’t be dropping them off at the closest urban center. Thanks to Jay Swoboda of What’s Up for his help with resources for this post.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Do you give money to the homeless on the street?

“Do you have any change?” Most of us have been approached by a homeless person asking for money.

ABOVE: entrance to the Horizon Club, a downtown St. Louis safe haven.

The poll this week asks how you respond when asked for money.  Next week when I present the poll results I’ll have some expert views on the subject.  In the meantime please vote and share your thoughts below.

– Steve Patterson


Work Progressing in Lucas Park

September 16, 2009 Downtown, Homeless, Parks 3 Comments

Lucas Park, in downtown St. Louis, was used for years only by the homeless in the region.  Map to Lucas Park.  A year ago local residents began cleaning up and using the park.  The homeless are still there, just joined by loft dwellers.

In the last year an improvement plan was developed and funding obtained.  Work on the improvements has begun.

One of the main issues I have with the park is the sidewalk along 14th Street on the West edge of the park.  It is too narrow and too close to the street.  Parents didn’t like the proximity of the playground to the street.  A row of bald cypress trees were removed and a retaining wall installed — this will permit the installation of a more generous sidewalk to be placed away from the curb while also creating a barrier to keep kids out of the street.

bThe playground used to be surrounded by rotting railroad ties.  Now the retaining wall material defines the playground area.

Over on the North section of the park a new dog run is being built to replace the makeshift one on the East end of the park (former Children’s Center fenced playground).

– Steve Patterson


‘Project HERO’ Gets Cold Reception

March 6, 2009 Downtown, Homeless 17 Comments

The former Days Inn motel at Tucker & Washington Ave underwent a $14 million dollar renovation recently and it emerged as the Washington Ave Apartments with 94 units.

Former Days Inn at Washington Ave & Tucker
Former Days Inn at Washington Ave & Tucker

St. Patrick’s Center, a provider of services to the homeless, is working with the city and Veteran’s Affairs to rent 45 of the units to homeless vets.

Many downtown residents are upset they were not included in the planing before it went forward. More than 20 formerly homeless vets have been residents in the building since June 2008.

It is true many of the homeless vets have addiction issues. But would we prefer they be sleeping in our parks and doorways?

A participant must:

  • Be an honorably discharged veteran. Men only.
  • Undergo weekly drug testing.
  • Pay 30 percent of income toward rent and utilities.
  • Not possess alcohol on premises.
  • Not have violent crime or sex offense convictions.
  • Do daily morning check-ins in person or by phone with a staff member of St. Patrick Center.
  • Not have overnight guests unless it is the tenant’s minor child.
  • Leave his Project HERO apartment after a maximum of two years.

About the building:

  • Key card access 24 hours a day to track who is coming and going.
  • Security cameras in hallways and common areas.
  • No loitering outside the building. A courtyard not visible from the street is available for tenants. The building also has a community room and free use of laundry facilities.
  • Apartments come with kitchens. There are no communal meals.
  • A St. Patrick Center employee lives in the building.
  • Frequent and random visits by a case manager, which includes a check for alcohol and drugs and proper upkeep of apartments.

I personally welcome this as a means of providing housing to those in need who are trying to rebuild their lives. I do agree it should have been handled more openly. The risk, of course, is that if it had been more open it might have gotten squashed.

I’m glad to see the building being occupied. The tiny apartments were not leasing too well so these men may be the perfect tenants. These units can be a good first step to getting these men back on their feet and part of society.

The important thing is not not stigmatize the building or corner. To a degree these is no different than when a black family would move to a formerly all white street. People jumped up and down and talked about a drop in property values. The drop in values came as a result of the panicked selling cheap so they could flee mixing with someone outside their comfort zone.

I’m going to take a wait and see approach. I already like seeing ligts on in the building at night and increased foot traffic in the area. To me this will be 45 more working residents adding to the mix downtown. It will be more users of transit. The potential positives outweigh the potential negatives. So guys, I’m glad to have you as a neighbor! Welcome to downtown.