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St. Louis mayor wants homeless out of parks

By Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The City of St. Louis opened the first of four "drop-in centers" for homeless at a ribbon cutting on Monday.

Located on 23rd Street, the new "Horizon Club" is not a shelter, but rather a place where downtown homeless can access showers, bathrooms and eat meals.

In recent years, downtown residents and business owners have stepped up demands that the city do something about the homeless, especially those in Lucas Park.

Philip Mangano is Director of the U.S. Council on Homelessness in Washington DC.

"There is no question now that the intent now is to stop 'managing' homelessness, which is the most expensive way people randomly ricocheting through the emergency room of hospitals, through behavioral health systems, police courts and incarceration."

Mangano says that rather than only focusing on shelters and food pantries, cities should concentrate on transitioning homeless residents into permanent housing.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay claims that homelessness in the city is actually down 26 percent over the last 2 years.

Still, amid the real estate boom in the downtown loft district, urban homeless, especially those who congregate in Lucas Park close the library are a lightning rod of controversy.

Slay insists that helping the homeless with handouts and food in the park is not an effective option.

"If good intentions would solve homelessness it would be good a long time ago, we have a lot of people with good intentions. What we want to provide are the best practices' of what really works in solving the issue."

Slay also noted that as long as suburban counties don't develop their own plan the city will continue to shoulder most of the burden and cost associated with homelessness.

The new drop-in centers are not shelters, but will provide a place for people to go and take showers, wash clothes or eat meals while shelters are closed during the day.


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