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St. Louis evicts 2 small homeless camps even as riverfront camp earns a ‘pause’

A worker from the Missouri Department of Transportation tosses debris cleared from an area under an Interstate 44 viaduct in downtown St. Louis where a person experiencing homelessness was living on Monday, May 2, 2022.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
A worker from the Missouri Department of Transportation tosses debris cleared from an area under an Interstate 44 viaduct where a person experiencing homelessness was living on Monday, near the Dome at America's Center in downtown St. Louis.

Accompanied by a bulldozer, St. Louis city workers cleared the belongings of residents of two small downtown homeless encampments near the viaduct at I-44 and Cole Street on Monday. The site is one of several encampments the city has targeted for clearing. The largest encampment — consisting of around 25 people living in the shadow of the President Casino Laclede’s Landing pavilion near the riverfront — remains open after a last-minute reprieve.

As St. Louis on the Air reported last week, the larger riverfront encampment had been given a 10-day eviction notice and an order to clear the area by May 2 — raising alarm among residents and their advocates.

However, on Friday afternoon, the plan changed: The city announced the eviction would be paused until the Department of Human Services could “enhance” the options for resettling the residents into “non-congregate shelter bed options.”

Some residents of the camp, like Trina Scott, have made it clear they do not want to move into a crowded shelter.

“I'm happy,” Scott said Monday morning of the city’s decision to pause eviction. “We're finally getting the chance to be heard and understood, which is a big part. I would like to say thank you to the mayor and the city of St. Louis for allowing us to stay for a little bit more time.”

It’s not clear how much time they have before the bulldozers and workers return. City spokesman Nick Dunne said two of the smaller camps were cleared Monday, which leaves one near the viaduct in addition to the larger, riverfront camp subject to the city’s pause.

Avital Reznikov, an activist and member of Tent Mission STL, said the city’s stated goal of resettling residents in “non-congregate shelter bed options” has only increased confusion. The city previously insisted that it has sufficient shelter beds for the encampment residents.

Reznikov worries that the city will continue to inflict a “cycle of eviction” on its homeless population.

“Think about what it would be like for you to get 10 days' notice for an eviction three times in two years,” she said. “What would that mean for your life? Every time they’re forced to move, they lose the heirlooms they're trying to hold onto.”

St. Louis clears homeless camps

A group of protesters gathered at the site of the planned evictions Monday morning and later marched to City Hall, Reznikov said.

Scott said she just wants the city to leave them in peace.

“With the community like this, we're safe,” Scott said. “We don't have to worry about being alone. We all look out for each other. That's why staying together is so important. I think they should take up an area of land and allow us to go on it and continue to live our lives the way we want to live.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowskiand Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio  engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."