ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- News 4 has learned that taxpayer money will foot the bill for free housing for the homeless. St. Louis city leaders say the homeless cannot continue to camp in their makeshift homes along the riverfront.
The city plans to dole out free apartments, complete with paid utilities, as part of its 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. City leaders say too many 911 calls, followed by a murder at the camp on Monday proves the homeless need a different kind of help.
The city gets federal grants to the tune of $10 million a year to help people like those who live in "Hopeville."
"It's like a home to us down here," Nisey Johnson says. "I call everybody down here my brothers and sisters."
But the city wants to uproot the campers and plant them in permanent housing -- paid for by federal tax dollars.
"I mean you have an alternative," Human Services Director Bill Siedoff says. "Do you want people to be on the street, living in the parks and other places like doorways of businesses and other places downtown, or do you want to house people in a humane way?"
The city says many of the area's homeless need mental health services or help fighting addiction. Its Housing First initiative will not only give the homeless a home, but access to that help.
"What's to say 'heck, it's easier to be homeless in St. Louis -- at least they'll give you a house?'" I asked.
"Well that is a problem," Siedoff says. "There's a problem with the fact that we're doing a good job here, and I guess that gives people the attitude of why should we bother?"
Take one man we met at the camp -- fresh out of prison in Illinois. He said the system gave him a ride straight to Hopeville and dropped him off. St. Louis says that feeds the problem -- when it foots the bill for other cities' homeless.
City leaders will officially present their plan to the people of Hopeville in two weeks. They say they need their cooperation to make the move. But wherever they go, they can't stay on the riverfront.