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City says it's on track to open homeless shelters by April 12

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

The city of St. Louis says it will meet an April 12 deadline to open new emergency homeless shelters.

The city announced in February that it was seeking providers who were capable of opening as many as 250 beds by that deadline, either by expanding their existing facilities or by building new ones.

The beds are meant to replace the capacity of the New Life Evangelistic Center, which is facing a city-ordered shutdown unless it reduces the number of people who stay there overnight or it gets a new occupancy permit. New Life has sued the city in federal court on freedom of religion grounds.  

City of St. Louis human services director Eddie Roth said while his office is still negotiating with possible providers, everything is expected to fall in place in time. But Carol Corey, of the Metro St. Louis Coalition for the Homeless, was skeptical.

"Projects take time, unless they've got some magic solution that we don't know about," Corey said. "It's hard to imagine they could absorb 200-300 people in the next month or two into new locations when every place in town is filled."

Corey said she is also concerned that the city does not appear to have held any public hearings on the locations of the new shelters.

"Since the neighbors around the only 24-hour shelter in the city are forcing it to close down, I wonder what the city is doing about making sure that the next neighborhood would be okay with a shelter," she said.

Roth said he has spoken to key aldermen and neighborhood groups, and that there will be "no surprises" for any community.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.