Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Protesters, Volunteers Urge City to Do More to Help Homeless as Temperatures Drop Again

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Protesters, Volunteers Urge City to Do More to Help Homeless as Temperatures Drop Again

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Volunteers aiding St. Louis' homeless population in the winter months told an aldermanic committee on Thursday that the city's efforts to provide shelter are falling short.

During the most recent cold snap, city-owned Biddle House, a homeless shelter just north of downtown, served as a "triage center," said Koran Addo, a spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson. Not everyone who showed up was able to stay there, but they were directed to other places, he said, and there were enough beds for everyone who sought one.

When the temperature drops to 20 degrees or below, the city calls on church groups and other organizations to open emergency shelters. Volunteers shuttle those living on the street to the shelters and often provide food, water and clothing.

But some volunteers told aldermen the city is relying on them too much. There's a shortage of transportation to take the homeless elsewhere, they said, and it's not always clear which shelters can accommodate them. Information from a city hotline connecting the homeless with shelters that have open beds is often inaccurate, they alleged.

The Board of Aldermen's Health and Human Services Committee invited Irene Agustin, the city's director of Human Services, to talk about the city's response to homelessness. The committee also took testimony from the crowd of vocal volunteers.

Agustin acknowledged the need for long-term solutions and discussions, but said the city has made significant progress in reducing the rate of homelessness in the last several years. Biddle House can connect the homeless with permanent housing, job opportunities and treatment for mental illness or substance abuse, she said.

The city has limited resources to spend on emergency shelters, she said, with the majority of federal money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spent on permanent housing. …

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