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St. Louis’ winter plan includes more homeless shelter beds and support services

A man asked to be identified as “JTP” goes through his belongings on Friday, March 10, 2023, at an unhoused encampment along Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
A man experiencing homelessness goes through his belongings in March 2023 at an encampment along Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard in downtown St. Louis. City officials are ramping up support services and increasing shelter beds to help people who are experiencing homelessness over the winter months.

The City of St. Louis has increased its partnerships with local organizations to provide more beds and social services support throughout the winter months for people who are experiencing homelessness.

Over 840 city-funded shelter beds, including more than 100 winter overflow beds, will be available for those in need of a warm place to stay.

St. Louis officials want to make sure that people who need housing are protected from harsh weather, said Adam Pearson, the director of the city’s Department of Human Services.

“Collaboration with our neighbors in St. Louis County and agencies regionwide is key as we continue to deploy federal resources to increase our shelter bed count and provide critical wraparound services.”

To ensure people receive the extra support they need this winter, the department hired two client services coordinators to help with unhoused operations, provided funding to expand the St. Patrick Center’s McMurphy daytime warming center and is increasing its trauma support.

“There are a number of individuals who experienced homelessness, who have significant backgrounds in trauma, maybe they have observed something traumatic or they have experienced something traumatic,” Pearson said.

The city will run its winter operations from Dec. 1 through March 31.

Officials also are concerned about families when temperatures drop below 20 degrees, or 25 degrees with condensation. Instead of using a warming bus during those cold periods, they are partnering with the Kaleidoscope Center at Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown St. Louis to use the facility as a warming space and as a central referral location on freezing nights.

Some St. Louis libraries, senior centers, the Salvation Army and other local organizations will also open their doors for people who need to stay warm in the daytime.

City officials say United Way’s 2-1-1 number is still the best option for those in need of shelter or resources over the next few months.

“We're working with 2-1-1 and partners to make sure that we can try to fill in some of those gaps that have made referrals a little bit tricky in the past,” Pearson said.

The city’s Department of Human Services also wants to fund more organizations to help people find housing over the winter.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.