It almost seems like they are everywhere. Everywhere downtown at least. They walk around with several layers of clothes on, even in the blistering heat of summer. They push shopping carts filled with all of their possessions.
They set up temporary housing in parks and overpasses until the police come and chase them away. A few of them don’t even have to be there. They have enough money to afford decent housing, but they just prefer to live on the street. I recently read about one lady who had $300,000 save up, but still lived on the street.
I visited my old neighborhood recently and at a shuttered, boarded up school that I once attended, the schoolyard was filled with shopping carts! They had put up a chain link to keep people out and they were able to break through it and set up a place they could keep all of their shopping carts willed with clothes and other assorted belongings.
For years now, Larry Rice has battled the city to establish a homeless shelter downtown. They have tried everything imaginable to keep him from operating his homeless shelter on 7th Street. They also have kept him from establish a center for training the homeless for so-called “green” jobs.
Basically the city’s job over the years has been one of enforcement, not help. But maybe that is changing. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Mayor Francis Slay has announced a new homeless initiative Tuesday that will use four schools in the city as “hubs” to help people find resources to stay in their homes or get permanent housing.
Slay called the $8.4 million “Hope is Moving In” plan “a giant leap forward in our plan to end homelessness” in St. Louis. The program’s hubs, which are funded by the plan, will have housing specialists, financial counselors and legal professionals to help families and others in need of assistance.
But the city didn’t come up with the initiative and the money on their own accord. They received the $8.4 million from the federal government to set up the program. With the downturn in the economy, a lot more people are facing being evicted from their homes and winding up homeless.
It has become something that doesn’t just happen to other people anymore. It can easily happen to you and me, and I guess that’s enough for us to sit up and take notice. There may not be a whole lot left between us and tent city.