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Government, Politics & Issues

Biddle House secures last dollars needed to open

William Bailey | St. Louis Planning Department |Provided
A homeless shelter at the old Biddle Market is on track to open the first week in August after final funding was approved on July 22, 2016.

After a two-day delay, a new homeless shelter in St. Louis is back on track to being ready to operate.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment on Friday approved a $360,000 contract with St. Patrick Center, which will run the facility at the old Biddle Market north of downtown. Mayor Francis Slay and Comptroller Darlene Green voted to approve the funding; board president Lewis Reed maintained his opposition from Wednesday.

Green had abstained on Wednesday, when the money was originally expected to be approved. But she changed her mind, citing her role as the city's financial guardian. If the city failed to get Biddle House open or had to move it within 18 months, she said, the city could be declared in default on loans it received to remodel the facility and be on the hook for $2.5 million.

Reed cited the concerns of the Carr Square neighborhood for his no votes.

"In the newspaper today, you say that the city wants to get community input on plans to redevelop this neighborhood," Reed said, quoting from a letter submitted by the Carr Square Tenant Management Association. "We are turning in more than a thousand signatures, gathered in one day, that say we don't want Biddle House. Are you really listening?"

Darryl Piggee, an attorney for the association, said the neighborhood would continue to fight the shelter. The city, he said, may not be in compliance with federal fair housing rules.

"This is clearly not within the theme of affirmatively furthering fair housing, when you burden one neighborhood will all of the homeless and halfway houses in the entire region," he said.  "So I think there are still chapters to be written in this story."

Biddle House is set to open the first week of August. It will offer both daytime services and emergency overnight housing.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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