Letter to the Editor
After reading your front page story on the efforts to address the needs of chronically homeless people in your Saturday edition, I felt obliged to share additional information that is more illustrative of the significant effort and success the City of St. Louis has achieved in meeting the needs of homeless people since implementing the 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.
While it is true that the city has added 217 new permanent supportive housing beds for the chronically homeless, the story failed to mention that funding has been already been secured and locations identified for an additional 82 beds. In the very near future a total of 299 beds will be available. Additionally, in our 2010 Continuum of Care application we just submitted, we requested and expect to receive funding for an additional 24 beds which puts us right on target for a total of 500 new units in the city. When Mayor Slay took office, there was only a total of 11 beds for the City's chronically homeless.
The Post's story referenced the establishment of six 24-hour "safe havens" - four in the City and two in the county. However, it failed to mention that while one "safe haven" has opened (the horizon Club on North 23rd Street) the city has secured funding for two additional "safe havens", one currently being developed by Peter & Paul Community Services and the other by Catholic Charities. This will result in three of the four "safe havens" being in place in the very near future. Additionally, a drop-in center called "The Bridge" was opened in 2005 at 1610 Olive with the City's help, affording chronically homeless people a place to go to get help during daytime hours.
While these new beds and facilities will add vital new resources, I think it is important that your readers know of the significant effort extended by the City of St. Louis to all homeless people. Currently, the City has 642 emergency shelter beds, 811 transitional beds and a total of 1,255 permanent supportive housing beds. That's more than 2,700 beds provided for homeless people. Contrast that to surrounding counties, including Metro East, where there are essentially no shelters or beds for anyone. Given this paucity of resources, it's no wonder that statistics reveal that about half of the people served in the City come from outside the city limits to get help.
More specifically, a 2009 point-in-time homeless count reporting the number of homeless people in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren Counties revealed that there were a total of 830 homeless people. At that time, those counties did not provide any emergency shelter beds. The homeless people are forced to seek shelter elsewhere. All counties within the St. Louis Metropolitan area should pitch in to do their part in helping their own homeless residents. If that were the case, ending homelessness might come a lot sooner.
Bill Siedhoff, DirectorDepartment of Human ServicesCity of St. Louis