3 min read
Posted on 02.18.15
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 02.18.15
  • Filed under
  • homelessness
  • Continuum of Care
  • partnerships
  • Eddie Roth
  • emergency shelters

It is time to change emergency shelter for people who are homeless in the City of St. Louis. It is not good enough to warehouse people for a night, in substandard conditions, give them a meal, and then send them on their way to fend for themselves until darkness comes again. Without question, providing food and temporary shelter is necessary, and at times, lifesaving. But, it is just as important to spend the time, energy, and other resources to help people who are homeless live a more stable, safe, and dignified life. That means supporting traditional emergency shelters with uniform and centralized intake, rigorous assessment, and case management to shorten stays and connect people to stable transitional and permanent housing as a way to leave life on the streets. Our goal must be to reduce homelessness, not enable it.

When I appointed Eddie Roth as the Director of the Department of Human Services, I directed him to find an effective way to offer homeless services that more quickly move citizens of our region off the streets and into new homes, with more stable lives, and on the path to success.

As a result, the City of St. Louis and its Continuum of Care for Ending Homelessness are moving ahead with significant changes in how we assist men, women, and families who are homeless in this community.

We are soliciting proposals to expand emergency shelter and to change how it is done.

We will have two emergency shelters up and running by mid-April, as part of a system to add a total average of 225 beds of walk-in, emergency overnight shelter in the City of St. Louis and have them available 365 days a year - increasing by more than 60 percent the number of year-round, emergency shelter beds currently offered through the Continuum of Care agencies.

Between 75 and 100 of these beds will be sought from experienced agencies that have facilities that are ready, or quickly could be readied, for occupancy to provide additional shelter beds to men, women, and families who are homeless.

We are calling them Expanded Existing Facilities. We expect multiple proposals, some of which may offer Expanded Existing Facilities in the form of five beds here, or 10 beds there, or 25 beds elsewhere.

In addition to Expanded Existing Facilities, the City of St. Louis will work to supply two facilities that will be used as walk-in emergency overnight shelters: one for single men and the other for women and children.

The men's shelter will have an average daily census of 75 men. The women's shelter will have an average daily census of 50 women and children.

The search is on for facilities that can accept immediate occupancy, or be readied for occupancy in 60 days.

The operators of these shelters will treat emergency shelter the way it should be treated: as an emergency. These shelters will become places for new beginnings, not places of "last resort." That means multiple agencies will be working together to provide immediate shelter but also to move guests out of shelter as quickly as possible and toward permanent housing and independent living.

To accomplish that, the shelters will be supported by a rigorous intake and needs assessment process - so we know who we are serving, what they need, and how best we can empower them to succeed in the future.

The facilities will be actively overseen by the Department of Human Services to make sure that they are not creating a nuisance or detriment to the neighborhood around them. These shelters must be carefully managed by the non-profits and faith-based groups that are awarded contracts in ways that ensure they are good neighbors, and that any problem is met with a prompt and effective response.