The city of St. Louis is following through on its goal to open two emergency homeless shelters by mid-April, but a lot of the details are still being worked out.
The men’s shelter is temporarily being housed at the 12th and Park Recreation Center in the LaSalle Park neighborhood.
And according to Human Services Director Eddie Roth, some of the contracts are not yet finalized.
Still, arrangements have been made with a coalition of service providers to open an additional 181 emergency shelter beds in the city beginning on Sunday.
“These shelters — all of them — will be carefully managed in ways that insure they are good neighbors,” Mayor Francis Slay said at a news conference Thursday. “These agencies will treat an emergency shelter the way it should be treated—as an emergency. These shelters will become places for new beginnings, not places of last resort. These shelters will be places where multiple agencies work together to move guests out of shelter as quickly as possible and towards permanent housing and independent living.”
The recreation center where the men’s shelter will be for the foreseeable future has housed the city’s cold weather overflow shelter for three years, but the news that up to 125 homeless men will be in the center nightly was not greeted enthusiastically Wednesday night at a neighborhood meeting.
“LaSalle Park has extended hospitality to vulnerable people in ways that few neighborhoods in this region can take credit for,” Roth said. “They are understandably concerned.”
Noting that the city also wants the facility at 12th and Park to be a full-time recreation center, Roth added that the neighborhood association asked when a permanent location will be found for the men’s shelter.
“I told them I don’t even know whether we can pull this off, but my personal goal — and knowing the mayor’s interest in getting this resolved as quickly as possible — is to be out by the end of the calendar year. To be out and into a new facility and I think that’s possible,” Roth said.
In the meantime, Roth said that the agencies operating the men’s shelter, Salvation Army and Windsor Transitional Housing, will make sure the shelter runs smoothly.
“The police department is designating ... two park rangers to be there the entire time,” Roth said. “There will be no hanging out.”
St. Louis Public Radio contacted the 12th and Park Recreation Center to find out how the center planned to handle its dual roles. Director Terry Hinton said he had not been informed that the building he manages was to become a nightly shelter.
In addition to the 125 bed men’s shelter, the city is contracting with Gateway 180 to offer 50 emergency beds to women and women with children, St. Patrick Center to add 5 more beds to its shelter for women with mental illness and Doorways to open a bed for someone with HIV or AIDS.
Gateway 180 director Kathleen Beach said her agency’s four-story building at 19th and Cole can easily expand the number of beds it offers from 110 to 160.
“I personally talk to at least three people per day who are saying ‘I’ve been trying for months to get in and you guys are always full can you help me get in’ and it’s heartbreaking. And so to be able now to say ‘yes we can help you’—I’m so excited,” Beach said.
When Mayor Francis Slay announced his plan to open city-funded emergency shelters by mid-April, the deadline coincided with the city’s deadline to New Life Evangelistic Center.
The city’s Board of Public Service had ruled that New Life had to bring its occupancy down to 32 by April 12 or it would have its hotel license revoked on May 12.
On Wednesday, a temporary stay was filed in the civil suit between New Life and the city, giving New Life until “October 15 or until this Court specifically orders otherwise” to reduce its occupancy.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.