Homeless encampment cleared without confrontation
By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis –
Officials with the St. Louis Department of Human Services are relieved that Friday morning's evacuation of a homeless encampment in a crumbling railroad tunnel went smoothly.
The city gave the 75 or so residents of the encampment, called "Hopeville," until 8 a.m. to leave the tunnel, where work will begin soon on a $34 million project to fill in the crumbling structure and rebuild Tucker Blvd.
Many of the 75 had moved into Hopeville since Easter, drawn there by the Rev. Larry Rice. Rice had demanded an acre of land for the displaced homeless, calling the response by the city and social service agencies inadequate. But earlier this week, he announced he would not put up a fight at the tunnel.
That relieved city human services director Bill Siedhoff, who said many of the residents got the message that the tunnel wasn't safe. Officials from the department were in the tunnel daily, he said.
Many of the 75 have moved to a new encampment along the Mississippi River. Siedhoff said the city will leave the area alone, except to monitor safety and sanitation. But, he said, the department is worried.
"There's an area down there that's been established there for quite some time called Dignity Harbor, and there's a great deal of tension between the people in Dignity Harbor and those who are just newly moved in," Siedhoff said, noting that the same thing happened between long-time residents of the tunnel and those who arrived after Easter. The new encampment is also in a depression, which can flood in the rain.