ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — You can get a ticket for littering downtown, but apparently it’s okay to drop off the homeless here.
A downtown mission to the homeless — and the city’s top advocate for the homeless — are both complaining that surrounding counties have been dumping their homeless downtown, leaving taxpayers and charities to care for them.
“A van will pull up from a county, and two officers will get out with a guy in handcuffs, and they’ll take the cuffs off of him and leave him in Lucas Park across the street,” said the Reverend Chris Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center.
Rice says they welcome the chance to help the homeless, but says downtown is becoming glutted with homeless he believes should be cared for by surrounding local governments and churches. And Rice says it’s not just police doing the dumping. It’s also local hospitals and detox centers.
“Squad cars will either take them here, or hospitals will give people a cab voucher and send them here,” he said, “But they don’t even know the neighborhood. They don’t know where it is they’re going.”
Meanwhile, the city’s top official dealing with the homeless, Director of Human Services Bill Siedhoff, says he’s been asking surrounding towns to stop dropping off their homeless downtown.
“This is something that we’ve complained about for years,” Siedhoff said, “The response has really fallen on deaf ears. We’ve gotten no help from surrounding counties. There are an awful a lot of homeless people that end up being dumped here in the city. We can’t document that, but certainly it happens.”
It’s unclear whether the practice violates any local of federal grant laws related to the homeless, but Siedhoff says if the city can document it happening it may end up in court.
“I would think there’s a legitimate basis for someone bringing this to someone’s attention through legal means,” Siedhoff said, “On the riverfront encampments, none of the people were from the city. They were all from outside the city limits.”
Last year, city taxpayers footed the bill for some 90 emergency calls for police and ambulance service at the riverfront homeless camps, Siedhoff said, including the case of a man who was murdered in an apparent argument over a can of beer.
This past fall, a five story warehouse fire near the homeless camps was linked to reports of the homeless seen running from the building. But no one was ever charged and the fire department ruled the cause “undetermined.”
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