A story in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch examines two men who are participating in one of the city's programs to address homelessness. The story is accurate, as far as it goes.
The "Housing First" approach is one of many used by the city and partners. St. Patrick Center and St. Vincent de Paul are two of many strong partners in the city's effort. And the two men profiled in the story are formerly homeless persons now living under roofs in supervised situations.
A paragraph in the story caught my eye: The city of St. Louis, which by far has the region's largest concentration of homeless, had an estimated 1,310 people living in shelters and transitional centers or sleeping outdoors or in abandoned buildings, according to a count in January. That number was down from 1,350 in 2009 and 1,386 in 2007.
Why are the region's homeless people concentrated in the city? Because that's where the best (and, in many cases, only) services -- like Housing First -- are. For the city, this is a problem wrapped in a solution. The more resources city residents expend on homelessness, the greater the magnet it is for the homeless -- many of them mentally and physically ill -- in rest of the region. The two men profiled in the newspaper story are actually from Illinois.
Given the state's planned cuts in mental health services and the region's other governments wariness in addressing homelessness in their own borders, the city remains the only real hope for the region's homeless. I do not believe that a humane government has a choice in providing such services, but clearly elected officials in other municipalities and counties disagree.