St. Louis Winter Outreach | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Winter Outreach

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.

Irene Agustin (left) and Teka Childress joined Thursday's St. Louis on the Air to discuss homelessness in the St. Louis area during the winter season.
EVIE HEMPHILL AND TEKA CHILDRESS

Temperatures have yet to reach their coldest levels this season in the St. Louis area, but people experiencing homelessness are already enduring the unforgiving conditions of a winter without shelter.

Director of the St. Louis Department of Human Services Irene Agustin told host Don Marsh on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air that the city last counted “a little over 1,300 [unhoused people] both in shelters and on the street.”

But Teka Childress, founder of the volunteer-powered St. Louis Winter Outreach, suggested that this count could be incomplete, due to how challenging it can be to attain an accurate total.

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

The head of St. Louis’ Department of Human Services has acknowledged the city is not doing enough to help people who need a temporary place to stay during prolonged cold weather.

“There certainly can be improvements that are made,” Irene Agustin, the Human Services director, told a Board of Aldermen committee on Thursday. “I think that’s important to really figure out how do we best respond more quickly.”

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.

(via Flickr / lateaserikard)

When the weather turns freezing cold, we’re advised to stay indoors as much as possible. But what happens to those without homes to stay warm in? 

That concern is what led Teka Childress to found St. Louis Winter Outreach nine years ago. On nights when the temperature reaches below twenty degrees, volunteers with the St. Louis Winter Outreach go out in search of the homeless and offer them rides to shelters.