ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–After a fatal stabbing last year, assaults, a tent fire and several 9-1-1 calls for help — the tent city along the riverfront north of downtown is on the way out.
The Slay Administration has posted signs warning the homeless encampments will be “permanently closed” in phases between May 4 and 18. The signs say the city of St. Louis will “strictly ” enforce these dates. “Access will be denied thereafter,” the signs say.
News of the impending ouster was getting mixed reviews among the homeless on the riverfront. Emerging from a tent into the drizzle by a smokey campfire, a woman named “Leona” complained it wasn’t right.
“We ain’t doing nothing wrong out here,” she said, “We’re just trying to survive.”
The City’s Director of Human Services Bill Siedhoff says the some 30 homeless on the riverfront will be offered temporary housing in apartments paid for through a federal HUD grant.
“We’ve been meeting with their leadership to explain it to them,” Siedhoff said, “If they don’t accept the services, they’re going to have to leave.”
Siedhoff says there are currently no commercial plans for the land prompting the move, but says it could be developed later.
“This is really about public safety,” Siedhoff said, “We can’t have people living like that. We found rat burrows under the pallets their tents are on.”
A woman named “Tank” living in a sturdy looking wooden shed, heated by candles, says she’s afraid the city won’t make good on its pledge to find them something better.
“If they really, truly can get everybody placed, that’s great,” Tank said, “But if they don’t, they’re turning loose onto the streets individuals that have no where to go.”
Another riverfront dweller expressed a willingness to give it a try.
“They said they were going to help us get apartments with roofs over our heads and be able to take a bath and cook,” said Allen McNutt, “So, I don’t think it’s that bad.”
A man they call “Pops” who was sipping a tallboy says he has lived on the riverfront for two years, and he’s worried.
“The women are concerned, because when they go out there one on one and don’t have the guys in a group, they fear for themselves,” Pops said.