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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis accepts service providers' plan to run shelter set to open this summer in Biddle House

Originally built to house the Biddle Street Market, this city-owned building at 1211 N. Tucker Blvd. is slated to house the city's new 24-hour homeless shelter.
William Bailey | provided by the city of St. Louis
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Originally built to house the Biddle Street Market, this city-owned building at 1211 N. Tucker Blvd. is slated to house the city's new 24-hour homeless shelter.

Updated on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 2:00 p.m. to include the city's acceptance of a proposal - The city of St. Louis is one step closer to opening a homeless shelter on the near north side. Tuesday a city committee accepted St. Patrick Center’s proposal to run Biddle House with the help of Peter and Paul Community Services.

Human Services Director Eddie Roth said the next step is to negotiate a contract with the agencies.  

The city hopes to open the 24-hour shelter by the end of July. That’s a month after day shelter Bridge Outreach is slated to close.

Roth said the city is developing a plan with homeless service agencies to cover the gap.

At last week’s meeting introducing the agencies to the neighborhood, many residents said they were worried adding another shelter to the area would increase crime.

Original story from April 20, 2016 — The city of St. Louis has announced a location for a new 24-hour homeless shelter intended to replace embattled downtown shelter New Life Evangelistic Center: 1211 N. Tucker Blvd.

The city is currently looking for an agency to run the new shelter, located in a city-owned building on the near north side about seven blocks north of New Life on the corner of Biddle Street and Tucker Boulevard.

But St. Louis Human Services Director Eddie Roth said the city will hold itself responsible for the success of the shelter.

“This isn’t an instance where the city has just found a place and thrown the keys to a non-profit and said here’s a good place for you to operate. Good luck. Let us know how things turn out,” said Roth. “The city is taking primary responsibility for the maintenance of this facility, for maintaining good safety in and around this facility and making sure the facility itself and everything around it is well-maintained and is something that the community will be proud of.”

The Biddle Street shelter is slated to open at the end of July, replacing a temporary men’s shelter that has been operating out of a south side recreation center since last April. In addition to housing about 100 men each night, the shelter will provide meals and social services for up to 125 men, women and children during the day.

Asked whether 100 beds would be enough to replace New Life, which provides shelter to as many as 300 people a night in the winter, Roth said the limited space will be an extra incentive to help people quickly find permanent housing.

“Emergency shelter is not an end. It’s a beginning. We view this as a gateway center,” said Roth.

The 24-hour shelter is intended to be a central location where people without a place to live can go for help, both to find a bed for the night and to get connected with a more permanent solution. Under best practices people needing shelter would be transitioned very quickly from emergency shelter to a permanent place to stay, either through rental assistance or a permanent shelter that provides the support people need to stay housed, such as addiction treatment or medical care.

Right now, Roth said, the goal is for men to have another place to live within 50 days.

After being classed as a “detriment to the neighborhood” in December 2014, New Life is currently fighting to continue housing as many as 300 people a night in hearings being heard by the city’s Board of Building Appeals.

Police officers testifying for the city recently said that they occasionally dropped people off at New Life last winter when the city’s temporary shelter was at capacity. That shelter had space for 125 men. The new shelter will have 98 beds, with space for additional cots.

Neighborhood Opposition

Organizations with a stake in efforts to revitalize the near north side oppose the shelter's location. In a letter circulated to stakeholders hours before the shelter's location was announced, the managers of a low-income housing complex said the shelter will hurt efforts to redevelop one of the poorest neighborhoods in St. Louis. 

Rodney Hubbard Sr., father of Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, 5th Ward, is the director of the property management company, called Carr Square Tenant Management Corporation. 

Carr Square and an agency called Urban Strategies are part of group that is working to implement two federal grants: one a planning grant to revitalize the neighborhood, the other a grant to reduce crime.

Roth said he's invited Carr Square to be part of the shelter's oversight committee in an effort to gain the neighborhood's support.

“We looked for facilities that we could have in place in time to meet the potential closing of NLEC (New Life) and to provide relief for a day shelter that because of the inadequacies of the facility — and I’m talking about the Bridge — was creating pressure on the community. So we looked at every place that we could reasonably transform into this facility and really the only place that came to the fore that could be developed and made operational in a reasonable period of time was this facility,” said Roth.

Roth said the former Biddle Street Market building is a good fit because it’s near existing homeless services and set apart from the neighborhood.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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