ST. LOUIS — In St. Louis, some outreach workers who help homeless neighbors said they are frustrated with city officials, while officials said they are already doing more ahead of the city’s inclement weather response plan that begins in December.
“I had this space and it wasn’t being used,” said Marsha Hawkins-Hourd, executive director of the Child and Family Empowerment Center.
She said she was still shaken up by the recent cold snap.
“We close at 5 or 6 and it’s right here and they might have been in here,” Hawkins-Hourd said.
The center provides shelter for those recovering from drug use disorders and incarceration. However, operations would change from Saturday 25 November.
“This is strictly for the homeless,” Hawkins-Hourd said. “What we are doing here and now is strictly for the homeless.”
There were about 20 cots in the gym, but the city and center said more were coming.
“The goal is up to 200 beds,” said Yusef Scoggin, St. Louis director of human services. “And that’s going to be about 30 to 40 percent up from last year, and the important thing is that they’re 24 hours long.”
On Thursday, December 1, the city will expand funding to allow for more overnight beds during its cold weather operational plan. Scoggin also looks longer.
“We don’t want to be in the same situation and see the same people every year,” Scoggin said. “Because we want to make sure the services give them a roadmap, a playbook, to be housed permanently.”
Avital Reznikov works with St. Louis Winter Outreach to provide services and supplies to the homeless.
“It takes about a year to get an apartment,” she said. “And people deserve a safe place out of the elements and away from danger.”
Reznikov said people without housing also run the risk of losing documents needed for a housing voucher.
“People lose them all the time,” she said. “They are stolen. They are ruined by the weather.”
That’s one of the reasons Reznikov immediately wanted to see greater availability of emergency beds and emergency beds.
Audra Youmans is also from St. Louis Winter Outreach. She said there was also an issue with the warming bus, which typically parks in downtown St. Louis.
“From 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., people can walk, be on the bus or nearby and hopefully be put into a walk-in emergency shelter bed,” she said. “Many responders were told at a private meeting in September that it was highly unlikely to happen.”
Scoggin has neither confirmed nor denied whether the bus will run this year.
“So we’re still reviewing the process as we look at all the operations and next week we’ll be making announcements,” he said.
Projected overnight temperatures in the upper 20s or 30s would be uncomfortable for those at home. As the city counted down to the start of its inclement weather schedule, Reznikov said sleeping in fairly cold temperatures could be fatal or disabling for unaccommodated neighbors.
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