Homeless Headcount Sparks Discussion in Mayor’s Race
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–The city’s annual homeless headcount is underway — with organizers predicting there will be fewer homeless tallied here than a year ago.
“We had over nineteen hundred homeless people back in 2005,” said the city’s Director of Human Services Bill Siedhoff, “We’re down to about thirteen hundred now.”
The count takes place at city shelters where the homeless come in out of the cold for food or other services.
Siedhoff says the Slay Administration has been working to move the homeless off the street into apartments paid for with federal grant money. Last year the city received $15 million in federal grants for the homeless, Siedhoff said. No figures were available on how much of that went to the homeless, as opposed to administrative costs and salaries of homeless advocates.
“We had eleven units of permanent supportive housing when Mayor Slay took office,” Siedhoff said, “We now have something approaching over three hundred.”
Slay’s challenger in the March 5 primary, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, says the homeless head count probably undercounts the true number of homeless living in buildings around the city.
“If you go down along the riverfront, some of the vacant abandoned structures, they are living in some of those buildings,” Reed said, “So, you may not see them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”
Reed also says the city needs to urge St. Louis County to open a homeless shelter, because downtown is becoming the prime destination for homeless seeking food and shelter.
“We need a regional approach,” Reed said, “This isn’t just a St. Louis city issue.”