Homeless | St. Louis Public Radio

Homeless

RukaNade founder Nermana Huskic came to St. Louis in the late 1990s, arriving with family members as refugees after the Bosnian war.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For Nermana Huskić, the seeds of her future as a resource and service provider for homeless people were planted young. 

At the age of 5, Huskić witnessed terror and violent intimidation by Serbian soldiers who barged into her home looking for her father and other male figures. 

It was 1992 and the start of the Bosnian war. The Bosnian Serbs set out to rid the country of its Muslim population and gain desired land. 

Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis opens its doors on weekdays and during weekend services to provide a place for the homeless to escape the summer heat.
Nicholas Telep | St. Louis Public Radio

With temperatures expected to climb into the 90s this weekend, volunteers are stepping in to care for the city’s homeless population.

People who live on the streets are likely to become dehydrated and experience heatstroke — because there are few places they can find relief from the heat. Religious organizations and other nonprofits in St. Louis fill the gaps in homeless services, providing meals and opening their doors to the city’s unhoused population.

Homeless people huddle over steam grates near the Enterprise Center as extreme cold temperatures have arrived in St. Louis on January 30, 2019.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

When Akash Munshi and other Pride St. Louis board members saw the forecast of below-zero temperatures last week, they started planning.

Within two hours of meeting, they decided to keep the organization’s LGBTQ resource building, Pride Center, open overnight for homeless and low-income people. They gathered volunteers, and several community members began collecting money to help pay for the Pride Center’s gas and electrical utilities.

Andy Melton | Flickr

The National Weather Service has warned that dangerously cold weather will hit the St. Louis region Tuesday and stick around through Thursday.

The wind chill could reach as low as minus 40 degrees and could cause frostbite in just 10 minutes, according to the warning.

It’s important to plan ahead for severe weather to prevent cold-related maladies like frostbite and hypothermia, said Washington University School of Medicine professor of emergency medicine Gary Gaddis.

Cathy "Mama Cat" Daniels stirs a pot of chili while prepping food to deliver to shelters and to people experiencing homeless. January 27, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis agencies and community organizations that work with the region’s homeless population are calling on city and county residents to volunteer time and donate supplies.

The groups are stretching resources to keep people warm and fed as weekend forecasts warn of more sleet, snow and freezing temperatures.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The Freedom Center of Missouri has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of St. Louis over local regulations that prevent people from providing home-cooked meals to the homeless.

The suit alleges that the city policy violates the constitutional right to freely exercise religion, because it prevents people from following religious mandates to help others.

File photo | Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

The city of St. Louis plans to add more beds to its Biddle homeless shelter, north of downtown, starting on Monday.

The shelter currently has room for 100 men to stay overnight. Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Thursday that Biddle House will make space for an additional 50 men until the end of March.

Volunteer Sam Roth, right, plays chess with a Biddle House shelter resident on July 9, 2018. The chess club began in 2016, the same year the shelter opened.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Terry Austin eyes his opponent across the chessboard, then deftly captures his knight.

A few moves later, opponent Ed Rataj admits defeat.

The two play in the communal living area at Biddle House, a shelter for people who are homless near downtown St. Louis. Austin is a resident. The Biddle House chess club began in 2016, the same year the shelter opened. Twice a week, shelter residents gather to play chess with volunteers from the community.

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Lazare House, a permanent housing program in St. Louis, aims at giving older, homeless young adults with mental health needs a chance at stability.

The 15-unit apartment building in south St. Louis is operated through Depaul USA, and provides housing for young adult ages 18 to 24.

Suzanne Kenyon, the director of Depaul USA in St. Louis, said although there are permanent housing resources in the city for adults and temporary housing resources for young people, the need for permanent supportive housing for young people is widely unmet.

Betty Arrington plays afternoon bingo at the Mary Ryder Home. (Jan. 4, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A residence in the Central West End has had the reputation of catering to poor and low-income women for years. But now, the organization's work to house middle-aged and elderly women with mental illnesses and, in some cases, formerly homeless women, is vital in a city seeking to address its issues around homelessness.

The Mary Ryder Home, 4361 Olive St., isn’t a nursing home or an independent senior-living facility. It gives women over age 55 who can no longer afford to live on their own — either because of mental health issues or financial problems — a place to stay. Permanently.

Sign at a homeless tent encampment on sidewalk in downtown St. Louis on Oct. 26, 2017.
File photo | Chelsea Hoye | St. Louis Public Radio

Local community organizations are teaming up to collect and distribute donated items for homeless people who’re suffering in the dangerous cold.

A Winter Homeless Outreach event coordinated through Facebook has attracted more than 4,000 interested users. It’s a collaboration between Let’s Help The Homeless, CDDB Community Charity and Just For Kidz. Outreach services for veterans will also join the event. 

Sign at a homeless tent encampment on sidewalk in downtown St. Louis on Oct. 26, 2017.
File photo | Chelsea Hoye | St. Louis Public Radio

For a group of homeless people who've been living in tents on a downtown St. Louis sidewalk, it's the end of the road. 

Thursday was the deadline imposed by the city for them to leave the site.

In an act of solidarity, community activists gathered Thursday morning near Tucker Boulevard and Biddle Street to hand out food, winter clothes, and bus tickets to people who are homeless.

City officials had earlier announced that those in the tents would have to vacate the sidewalk, citing safety concerns.

Biddle Housing Opportunities Center. Biddle is partly run by the St. Patrick Center, a homeless service provider. Biddle is not only an emergency shelter, but also provides help for homeless, including finding housing. May 5, 2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

David Perry is a tall and muscular-looking guy. He has a construction job. His appearance and circumstances might not reveal it, but Perry is homeless.

For nearly six months he has been on the waiting list for housing at the St. Patrick Center, an organization that works with the city to end homelessness. 

Devonshae Ali, who plays Alice, and Gary Shepard, who has the role of Sam, are pictured in this April 2017 photo. They have both experienced homelessness in their own lives.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a time when Devonshae Ali, Kimberly Romine and Gary Shepard had no place to call home.

Now they all have not only permanent addresses but a new mission: helping people see what it's like to be homeless, through a play to be staged this weekend by St. Louis’ True Community Theatre.

A group of men put out mayoral campaign signs outside the New Life Evangelistic Center a day before the downtown St. Louis shelter at 1411 Locust St. is slated to close on April 2, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated April 1 after rally — The founder of New Life Evangelistic Center spent the final hours before his downtown St. Louis shelter closes leading rallies.

The Rev. Larry Rice is running for mayor of St. Louis and hopes that he can re-open his shelter if he wins Tuesday.

The city has been fighting to close New Life for years, saying it’s a detriment to the neighborhood.

New Life Evangelistic Center doesn't like to be held to a set capacity for shelter. Administrators say they don't want to turn anyone away.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Jan. 13 with results of appeal — A city board is ordering a downtown homeless shelter to close by April 1. 

On Thursday, St. Louis' Board of Building Appeals denied New Life Evangelistic Center's appeal of a cease and desist notice issued in early November. The center has been operating without an occupancy permit since May 2015.

Advocates say a heavy police presence in downtown parks, as shown in this June 28, 2016 photo, has driven some people experiencing homelessness into other St. Louis neighborhoods.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

An organization that goes into the streets to make sure people experiencing homelessness are warm and fed is concerned that the rights of the homeless are being violated in downtown St. Louis.

St. Louis Winter Outreach believes people living in shelters and abandoned buildings have borne the brunt of an increased police focus on minor violations promised by the mayor in May after a violent carjacking.

Homelessness on the decline in Missouri, Illinois

Nov 17, 2016
Volunteers look for people experiencing homelessness at the Delmar Loop Metro stop in July 2016 during St. Louis County's summer point-in-time count.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

This year’s federal homeless count found a 12 percent drop in the number of people experiencing homelessness in Illinois and a 4 percent drop in Missouri compared to last year.

Both states are on a five-year downward trend for homelessness, with Missouri’s count returning to pre-recession numbers. Illinois had one of the sharpest declines nationwide this year.

In addition to seating in the central hall of Biddle, the homeless center has classroom and office space on either side.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

After months of planning, and a few political bumps along the way, the city-owned homeless center in St. Louis’ Carr Square neighborhood opens Monday, five weeks after the initially targeted opening day.

Now known as the Biddle Housing Opportunities Center, the renovated building at the corner of Tucker Boulevard and Biddle Street just north of downtown is the result of a close to two-year effort to create a permanent, walk-in, men’s shelter with an eye to the possible closure of New Life Evangelistic Center.

New Life Evangelistic Center is located in downtown St. Louis.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The Board of Building Appeals in St. Louis city board has unanimously voted to require a downtown homeless shelter to seek approval from its neighbors for a new occupancy permit.

The board also voted Thursday to allow New Life Evangelistic Center to continue operating next to a school.

St. Louis city police convene June 28, 2016 at the park across the street from the St. Louis Public Library headquarters on Olive Street downtown. People experiencing homelessness often can be found at the park.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Homeless advocates say a bill being considered by St. Louis aldermen would bar them from helping people in need.

The measure would require a vendor’s license to distribute food, blankets or other goods on city sidewalks or parks — even if those items are being given away. It would also make it illegal to give anything away between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

People who are homeless rest in the cafeteria at the Bridge Outreach on Wed. March 30, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The Bridge Outreach is closing Thursday after serving thousands of meals a week to homeless people for more than a decade.

St. Louis officials and service providers have come up with a patchwork plan to fill the gap in services until the city’s 24-hour shelter opens.

But some advocates for homeless people say they’re worried the plan won’t be enough to meet the need.

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

For the past decade, the homeless population in the city of St. Louis has hovered between 1,300 and 1,500 people. But a national expert and the CEO of the lead agency selected to run the city’s new homeless shelter say with the right resources and methods, most of those people could be housed.

At a public meeting on Biddle House last Wednesday St. Patrick Center CEO Laurie Phillips said 50 percent of the estimated 1,300 homeless people in St. Louis just need a few months of rental support and help finding a job. That method is called rapid rehousing.

Quinton Reed eats a home cooked lunch and watches TV at his Garfield Commons Apartment. Reed was diagnosed with schizophrenia after years of struggling with homelessness.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Quinton Reed is one of the lucky ones. After struggling with homelessness for four years, he was diagnosed with  a mental illness and set up with treatment and a one-bedroom apartment in south St. Louis.

“I used to couldn’t watch TV or see my daughter or see my family or just relax. I was just out all day carrying big bags, going from shelter to shelter and sleeping outside,” said Reed, showing off the couch in his living room where he goes to relax and get away from the world.

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

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.  

New Life attorney Todd Lubben, right, asks New Life Vice President Raymond Redlich a question during testimony May 26, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 26 with final testimony - By this time next month New Life Evangelistic Center could know whether St. Louis will give the downtown shelter a new occupancy permit without the approval of its neighbors. The city's Board of Building Appeals finished hearing testimony Thursday in an appeal requested by New Life. The shelter is also asking for an exemption to continue operating within 500 feet of a school.

The appeal is a follow-up to a December 2014 ruling, when another city board found New Life was a detriment to the neighborhood.

Carr Square resident Catina Wilson speaks to a panel of city officials and representatives from St. Patrick Center and Peter and Paul Wed. May 25, 2016 at the public hearing on the agencies' application to run Biddle House.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

If their reception at a community meeting Wednesday night is any indication, the agencies who submitted the only application to run a new homeless shelter in St. Louis face an uphill battle to convince nearby residents they’ll be a good neighbor.

The plan is for St. Patrick Center to oversee daytime operations at Biddle House, including intake, meals and placement in permanent housing for up to 125 men, women and children. Peter and Paul Community Services would be in charge of the 98-bed overnight shelter for men.

Volunteer J.R. Wilkerson Jr. prepares broccoli at the Bridge Outreach on Wednesday, March, 30, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday was chicken, broccoli and rice day at the Bridge Outreach in downtown St. Louis. With the help of volunteers, Chef Charlotte McClendon serves close to 3,000 meals to the homeless each week.

But the days where people without a place to live can go to the Bridge for a meal are now numbered.

Day shelter to stay at Centenary church through June

Jan 10, 2016
Sherry Branham, 55, panhandles at the eastbound I-64 exit ramp onto Grand Blvd.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ only walk-in day shelter for the homeless won’t be moving to the city-owned building known as City Hall West this month after all. The board of the Centenary United Methodist Church agreed Sunday to extend the lease for the Bridge Outreach until the end of June.

“We decided that this was the right thing to do so that we didn’t have people displaced throughout the neighborhood and that we could provide shelter especially in this very cold weather,” said Centenary’s pastor, Kathleen Wilder, after the vote, noting that the church had “a commitment” from the city to find a new home for the Bridge by the end of the lease “if not sooner.”

St. Louis remembers 9 who died while homeless

Dec 21, 2015
Connie Lamka holds a candle during a vigil for nine St. Lousians who died while homeless in 2015. Lamka is a case worker for the New Life Evangelistic Center, and knew two women who passed away this year.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Before dusk on the longest night of the year, about 30 people stood at the Centenary United Methodist Church in St. Louis to remember nine people who died while homeless in 2015.

The four women and five men honored during the ceremony had visited St. Louis-area agencies for assistance, but died without a place to call home. Some died young, including one who passed away after a fire swept through his encampment near downtown St. Louis. Some died while estranged from family or friends.

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