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St. Louis receives federal stimulus money to tackle homelessness

By Maria Altman

St. Louis – The city of St. Louis has gotten more than $8 million in federal stimulus money to target homelessness.

The "Hope is Moving In" initiative will target the homeless, and those at risk of losing their homes. More than 100 people lined up at City Hall as officials announced the program.

Catholic Charities was one of several social service agencies on hand at City Hall. The charity received $2 million of the funding. Karen Wallensack, the director of the agency's housing resource center, said she's seen more and more people need help keeping a roof over their heads.

"I've never seen it like this," Wallensack said. "I've never seen this many people so desperate. Because they've lost jobs, they're having trouble finding a job, they're on the verge of losing their home or they've lost it already."

Wallensack said Catholic Charities can use the funding in several ways. For example, it will allow the agency to help pay old utility and rent bills that can often prevent people from finding new housing.

City Human Services director Bill Siedhoff said the money will help spur the local economy by helping people rent apartments and paying the salaries of social service workers.

"In a variety of ways this money will be injected directly into the economy of the city of St. Louis, which is what this was designed to do, is to create jobs and at the same time assisting people who are in need of help," Siedhoff said.

Siedhoff says St. Louis has reduced its homeless rate by 30 percent since launching a 10-year campaign against chronic homelessness in 2005.

Sixty percent of the money must be spent in two years, and all of it in three.