Homeless outreach
4:34 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

St. Louis increases homeless outreach

St. Louis city officials say they will step up their efforts to move residents from a series of tent encampments along the Mississippi River north of downtown into permanent housing.

Human Services director Bill Siedhoff said there is no deadline for individuals to leave the camp, and that no one will be forced out. But he said a series of fires - one in January, another more recently - and increasing reports of violence  led the city to more aggressively reach out to those living in the encampments.

"We're really saying to people that they need to be thinking about where they're going to live next, and we'll certainly be there helping them every step of the way," Siedhoff said.

There are currently about 75 people living among the three camps, which, though located close together, are distinct communities. The Rev. Kathleen Wilder, the executive director of The Bridge, said tensions over supplies and lifestyles are not uncommon.

"I remember last summer there were some times it was pretty precarious to be down on the riverfront in some of the tent cities, so I think that people are just trying to be proactive before it starts getting hot and tempers start getting short," Wilder said.

Wilder said improving weather conditions also provide more outreach opportunities. Siedhoff said it may also drive more people to the camp.