Later today, I will be at Harris-Stowe University with Bill Siedhoff, the City’s Human Services Director, and Antoinette Triplett, the City’s Homeless Services Manager, (and others) to mark the National Project Homeless Connect event here.
As its name suggests, Project Homeless Connect aims to match homeless people with the range of services available to help them. Since 2005, Project Homeless Connect has provided services to more than 1,000 people, and last year alone more than 400 homeless people received help.
St. Louis City was one of the initial 30 cities to participate in this national event and today more than 300 cities across the country - including those in St. Clair and Madison counties - are holding similar events. St. Louis is, however, the only city in the state of Missouri to hold one. That is a shame. About half of the homeless people we serve here in the City come from outside of the city limits. The unwillingness of neighboring Missouri counties to care for their own residents - even as the economy worsens - deserves some political soul-searching, and it spotlights the great work that Bill and Antoinette have been doing. Since implementing the 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in 2005, we have experienced nearly a 30 percent drop in our homeless census, reducing our count from 1,870 to 1,322. That figure places St. Louis City as having one of the lowest percentages of homeless people of any major city in the country. But, that is a thousand real people - neighbors and fellow St. Louisans - who still need us. The holiday season and the winter weather are particularly difficult for people without homes. That thought should inform both our public and private decisions.