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St. Louis signs lease on new temporary emergency homeless shelter

St. Louis officials signed a lease for a temporary homeless shelter to be put at this building, at 23rd and Pine.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis officials signed a lease for a temporary homeless shelter to be put at this building, at 23rd and Pine.

St. Louis is poised to meet a Monday deadline to move homeless men from a temporary emergency shelter in a city warehouse.

Mayor Lyda Krewson, comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed signed a 10-month lease on Tuesday for a space at 23rd and Pine streets, west of downtown. The lease starts Thursday, about a week before hundreds of local government officials, social service providers and community and business leaders will meet to seek a more regional approach to reducing homelessness.

The 75 or so men who were staying at the New Life Evangelistic Center before it closed in April were moved to the city warehouse. Women were moved to a public recreation center at 12th and Park.

After local legal advocacy group ArchCity Defenders sued, the city promised to move the men to another location within 60 days, saying the warehouse always was a temporary fix. The new temporary shelter previously housed a drop-in center for individuals with developmental disabilities who were also experiencing homelessness.

Eddie Roth, St. Louis’ director of human services, said the city is partnering with St. Patrick Center, a local service agency, to get the men into more permanent housing within six months.

Though he’s confident the city will meet the deadline, he said the $5,000-a-month lease is for 10 months just in case.

“December 1 is the end of six months, so we just wanted some breathing room in the winter months should something come up,” Roth said.

The new space is in Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia’s 6th Ward. The Democrat said she would have liked to be able to tell neighboring businesses and residents that the property would be used as a temporary shelter sooner.

“By necessity, the city is trying very quickly to determine what the best use of certain spaces is, and how to serve the population,” Ingrassia said. “I think in a perfect world I would have been brought into the mix a bit sooner, but really I feel like we’re in a good place now.”

National help for regional fragmentation

Once the new temporary shelter closes in March 2018, the city will have just one emergency overnight shelter — the Biddle Housing Opportunities Center located north of downtown.

Roth said the plan is to get other regional partners to provide breathing room in the future.

"Maybe St. Louis County, or one of the other counties should do a shelter for 30 women,” he said.

To that end, the city is using a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to have a Boston-based consulting firm guide social service providers, politicians, businesses, universities and other community leaders toward a more cooperative approach to reducing homelessness. The firm won’t force anyone to work together, Roth said, but will help foster natural ways to work together.

A two-day “boot camp” starts June 7. The consulting firm, the Cloudburst Group, helped St. Louis adopt a new strategy for distributing federal grants between 2012 and 2014.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann


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