Camp closure
9:56 am
Fri April 13, 2012

City sets deadline to clear homeless encampments north of downtown

The city of St. Louis says the 30 remaining residents of three homeless encampments located just north of downtown will have until the end of May to leave the location, or face possible arrest.

"The encampments have attracted a great deal of attention to the problems of homeless persons," said Bill Siedhoff, the city's human services director. "But they are not safe places for people to live, and they are certainly not a long-term answer to the problem."

Siedhoff says social service providers will start with the oldest camp, Dignity Harbor, on May 4. The deadline marks the end of a process that started in September, and has helped about 38 people relocated so far.

In addition to the usual range of services available to the chronically homeless, Siedhoff says the city has secured services to help those who just need a temporary hand up.

"In the past, unless you had a disability of some kind or you had some sustainability, some time of income, housing resources weren't readily available," Siedhoff said.

He says city officials met with the leaders and residents of the encampments on Thursday, and that most seemed ready to accept the help from the city. He's hoping to avoid forced removals.

"However, if there are individuals who don't want to work with us, who don't accept the services and offer of help, then obviously the camp needs to be closed and whatever steps will be necessary to do that will be taken," Siedhoff said.

The site cannot be completely closed off, unlike an earlier homeless encampment in an old train tunnel under Tucker Blvd., but Siedhoff says police will monitor the site and prevent the re-establishment of the camps.