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Homeless continue efforts to secure land for new encampment

The homeless encampment residents have started calling \"Hopeville\" is in the way of a major road project
(photo by Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
The homeless encampment residents have started calling \"Hopeville\" is in the way of a major road project

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Homeless St. Louisans who have been living in a railway tunnel are continuing to push the city to give them a new place to live.

The homeless have camped in the tunnel that runs under Tucker Blvd. for years, but the structure is dangerously unstable, and a major project to fill the tunnel in and rebuild the roadway over it will be underway in less than 30 days.

Residents of the community, which they have recently named "Hopeville," delivered petitions Wednesday to City Hall asking the Board of Aldermen to give them an acre or more of land to replace their old home in the tunnel. The effort was organized by the Rev. Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center.

"Our home is fixing to be torn down, and we have nowhere to go," said Kimberly Peterson, who said she moved into the tunnel when she became homeless about four weeks ago. "We work to get firewood, we work to get water, we work to get everything as a community. We have a security staff amongst us that stays up periodically through the night to make sure that no one comes in or goes out unnecessarily or unneeded."

Bill Siedhoff, the director of the St. Louis Department of Human Services, called the proposed solution "ridiculous."

"References were made to being on the street. The tunnel is the street. Our approach is getting people their own homes," Siedhoff said, adding that the city and service agencies had sharply reduced the number of homeless living at the tunnel until Rice encouraged people like Peterson to move to the tunnel to create publicity. His New Life Evangelistic Center has provided portable toilets and showers for the site as well.