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St. Louis mayor tries to clear City Hall camp after aldermen tout ‘Unhoused Bill of Rights’

Kathleen Cash, 57, of Ferguson, wheels her two chihuahuas Isabel, left, and Bubba, right, away from the homeless encampment Cash was staying at with her dogs and husband Kamm, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Kathleen Cash, 57, wheels her Chihuahuas Isabel, left, and Bubba away from a homeless encampment where Cash was staying with her husband, Kamm, late Monday night outside City Hall in downtown St. Louis.

The tents outside St. Louis City Hall stand another day.

City officials Monday night tried to clear an encampment of people who have been sleeping for months outside Mayor Tishaura Jones' office, citing a slew of disturbances over recent weeks.

But after hours of resistance by residents of the camp, joined by aldermen and a crowd of supporters, 14th Ward Alderman Rasheen Aldridge announced in the wee hours of Tuesday morning that Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office had called off the effort for the night. But, a city spokesperson said later Tuesday they would continue clearing out the camp while offering resources to the individuals staying there.

Crews attempted to move pop-up tents, sleeping bags and other belongings from the camp beginning around 8 p.m. on Monday night.

Officials in the mayor’s office referenced fights, drug overdoses, other medical emergencies and 50 police calls over the past month and a half as reasons for wanting to disband the camp. All people at the encampment had been offered shelter with supportive services, according to a city spokesperson, and more than a dozen residents had accepted those offers by Monday.

A demonstrator screams at police
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Activist Anthony Cage screams at an officer late Monday night as the officer announces people would have 45 minutes to clear the encampment outside City Hall in downtown St. Louis.

The cleanup attempt came the same day members of the Board of Aldermen announced plans to introduce bills this week to provide protections for people living in encampments, like the one outside City Hall, and to make it easier to open shelters.

The “Unhoused Bill of Rights” legislation promoted Monday by Board President Megan Green and 7th Ward Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier would decriminalize panhandling and loitering and require the city to create “safe camping areas” with toilets and showers.

Outside City Hall on Monday night, Sonnier said the city’s actions made it clear why such legislation is needed. She said breaking up the encampment will end up shuffling many of its residents to other parts of the city.

“We have to have other options besides disbandment. We have to actually create a place for all folks in our city to go,” Sonnier said, adding that homelessness is a regional issue that disproportionately affects the city. “I think what people are not seeing is what this population really looks like, and not seeing the shared humanity that we have with each other and that many of us are simply a few paychecks away from being a few paces away and a family support system away from being in this same position.”

Kathleen Cash, 57, of Ferguson, kisses her Chihuahua Isabel before leaving a the homeless encampment she was staying at with her dogs and 52-year-old husband Kamm, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. “They treat us like animals,” she said, later recalling an instance where someone walked past a fellow unhoused community member. “”I have cried so hard in these streets and people walk by and just don’t care — it’s beyond me.”
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Kathleen Cash, 57, originally of Ferguson, kisses her Chihuahua Isabel before leaving the homeless encampment where has been staying with her 52-year-old husband, Kamm, late Monday night outside City Hall in downtown St. Louis. “They treat us like animals,” she said, later recalling an instance where someone walked past another unhoused person experiencing a medical emergency. "I have cried so hard in these streets, and people walk by and just don’t care — it’s beyond me.”

Kathleen Cash started packing her tent and belongings Monday night when news of the looming clearance made the rounds. “Alls we're doing is fighting for housing. We just want to be treated like humans,” said Cash, 57, who had been sleeping outside City Hall with her husband, Kamm Hayes, 52, and their two Chihuahuas, Isabel and Bubba.

'St. Louis on the Air': STLPR's Brian Munoz talks about this story

Cash said she didn’t know where they would go upon leaving the camp.

“They get mad at us because we have to go in the alley and go to the bathroom. But you don't provide us a bathroom,” Cash said as she wept outside City Hall. “We're not all here because we're bad people. There are good people here. I became homeless at 54 years old because of COVID, not drugs and alcohol, [or] because I'm uneducated or anything like that.”

She described a cycle of instability since losing her housing in a small town just north of Jerseyville, Illinois, during the coronavirus pandemic. “You can't get a job and hold it down when you don't know where the f*** you're gonna be the next day.”

See photos by photojournalists Tristen Rouse and Brian Munoz below:

McCray, who declined to give a last name, lays down to sleep at 9:15 p.m. the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. The city had planned to clear the camp he was staying in at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A man lies down to sleep at 9:15 p.m. Monday outside St. Louis City Hall. The city had planned to clear the camp he was staying in, but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
L. Jared Boyd, chief of staff to St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, observes those living in a homeless encampment from an unlit room on the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. The city had planned to clear the camp at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
L. Jared Boyd, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones' chief of staff, observes a homeless encampment being cleared late Monday in downtown St. Louis.
Anthony Cage yells “Shame on City Hall,” up toward the St. Louis City Hall building on the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. The city had planned to clear a homeless encampment at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Anthony Cage yells “Shame on City Hall,” toward the building late Monday night in downtown St. Louis. The city had planned to clear a homeless encampment but eventually called the effort off.
Kathleen Cash, 57, originally of Ferguson, realizes someone entered her tent and ate her turkey leg she had stashed as her Chihuahuas Isabel and Bubba watch on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Kathleen Cash, 57, originally of Ferguson, realizes someone entered her tent and ate her turkey leg she had stashed as her Chihuahuas Isabel and Bubba watch on Monday night outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Rev. Larry Rice, of the New Life Evangelistic Center, prays over Kathleen Cash, 57, in stripes, and her husband Kamm Hayes, 52, in the Black hat, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. Rice had his homeless shelter shut down in 2017 after numerous building code violations, overcrowding and complaints from neighbors. He has since tried to get the city to allow him to reopen.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Rev. Larry Rice, of the New Life Evangelistic Center, prays over Kathleen Cash, 57, in stripes, and her husband Kamm Hayes, 52, in the Black hat, on Monday night outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. Rice had his homeless shelter shut down in 2017 after numerous building code violations, overcrowding and complaints from neighbors. He has since tried to get the city to allow him to reopen.
Kathleen Cash, 57, of Ferguson, rests her eyes on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in front of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. “I fell for the moratoriums like everyone else,” she said after being evicted from her suburban St. Louis home in 2020. “No one realized what its as going to be like when it was time to catch up.”
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Kathleen Cash, 57, of Ferguson, rests her eyes on Monday night in front of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. “I fell for the moratoriums like everyone else,” she said after being evicted from her suburban St. Louis home in 2020. “No one realized what its as going to be like when it was time to catch up.”
Activist Anthony Cage on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, during an attempted clearing of a tent camp outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Anthony Cage listens to fellow activists in the wee hours of Tuesday morning during an attempted clearing of a tent camp outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier, 7th Ward, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, during a demonstration in support of people experiencing homelessness outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier, 7th Ward, on the wee hours. o Tuesday morning during a demonstration in support of people experiencing homelessness outside of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Oliver Juardo has his phone number written on his arm, in case he is arrested on the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. “I’ve been involved with the sweeps at the riverfront, in an effort to help folks down there,” Juardo said. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen tonight, but I’m very pissed that they weren’t given any notice.” Juardo and other advocates for St. Louis’ unhoused community joined an encampment outside City Hall, in an effort to resist the clearing of the camp by the city. The city had planned to clear the camp at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Oliver Juardo has his phone number written on his arm in case he is arrested late Monday night outside City Hall in downtown St. Louis. “I’ve been involved with the sweeps at the riverfront, in an effort to help folks down there,” Juardo said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, but I’m very pissed that they weren’t given any notice.” Juardo and other advocates for unhoused people in St. Louis came to the encampment outside City Hall to resist the clearing of the camp by the city.
Lisa Cagle holds a sign reading “What shelter?” up at a passing police car on the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. “I try to get supportive housing and get them off the street,” said Cagle, who works with unhoused individuals. “But this is not something I do regularly,” referring to being out with a sign. The city had planned to clear a homeless encampment at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Lisa Cagle holds a sign reading “What shelter?” up at a passing police car late Monday night outside City Hall in downtown St. Louis. “I try to get supportive housing and get them off the street,” said Cagle, who works with people experiencing homelessness. “But this is not something I do regularly,” referring to being out with a sign.
Police and City of St. Louis officials sweep a tent camp on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in front of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Police and City of St. Louis officials sweep a tent camp on the wee hours of Tuesday morning in front of City Hall in downtown St. Louis.
Adam Pearson, the director of the St. Louis Department of Human Services, walks through a tent camp in front of Amy Bickford, St. Louis Homeless Services Program Director, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in front of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. The city had planned to clear a tent camp in front of City Hall, but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing was postponed.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Adam Pearson, the director of the St. Louis Department of Human Services, walks through a tent camp in front of Amy Bickford, St. Louis Homeless Services Program Director, on Tuesday morning in front of City Hall in downtown St. Louis. The city had planned to clear a tent camp in front of City Hall, but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing was postponed.
Sarah Nixon, second from left, yells at St. Louis’ Homeless Services Program Manager Amy Bickford, center, while Bickford, other representatives from the city and police attempt to clear the encampment, late during the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. The city had planned to clear the camp at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Sarah Nixon, second from left, yells at St. Louis’ Homeless Services Program Manager Amy Bickford, center, while Bickford, other representatives from the city and police attempt to clear the encampment late Monday night outside City Hall.
Alderman Rasheen Aldridge, 14th Ward, announces a disbanding of a tent camp in front of City Hall would be postponed for the night on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Rasheen Aldridge, 14th Ward, announces a disbanding of a tent camp in front of City Hall would be postponed for the night during the wee hours of Tuesday morning in downtown St. Louis.
A sign advocating for the rights of unhoused people is displayed on the night of Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, outside St. Louis City Hall. The city had planned to clear a homeless camp there at 10:00 p.m., but after hours of delay, a walk through the camp and resistance from those living there and their advocates, the clearing did not occur. Instead, representatives from the city said they would come back in the morning, with the goal of finding transitional housing for those living outside City Hall.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A message advocating for the rights of people experiencing homelessness is displayed late Monday night outside City Hall in downtown St. Louis.

Brian Munoz is the interim Digital Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
Tristen Rouse is a documentary photographer and photo editor based in Washington D.C. He is a former photojournalist at St. Louis Public Radio.
Brian Heffernan is the interim news director at St. Louis Public Radio.