Confusion, concern among homeless population as Laclede’s Landing encampment eviction to begin tomorrow

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:17 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Tomorrow marks the city’s deadline for those experiencing homelessness to move out of their encampment on Laclede’s Landing. The eviction notice was issued earlier this month, giving people 10 days to find alternative housing.

“This morning, we got a lot of panicked calls from people that lived right over there,” said KB Doman, who is a member of Tent Mission STL, “Specifically because they were told that they had until tomorrow to figure out where they wanted to go, and then woke up to this, all of this construction, and police, and just being kicked out of their homes very fast.”

Doman and Audra Youmans are both part of St. Louis organizations that work directly on homeless outreach in areas like Laclede’s Landing. They spoke to News 4 today as they were out speaking with the unhoused population about their concerns ahead of tomorrow’s plan to decommission the encampment.

“I think a lot of people’s concern is just a lack of transparency of what’s being offered, how long they’re allowed to stay places, where they’re going, things like that and just what tomorrow is going to look like,” said Youmans, who is with St. Louis Winter Outreach. “People out here don’t really know what time the city is coming down. They don’t know exactly what time they have to be out.”

The vacate notice at the encampment site says the city’s refuse division will pick up discarded items left behind at the encampment site at noon on Friday. News 4 asked the city if that is the deadline for when unhoused residents will have to leave.

“Workers from DHS and our community partners will be doing outreach throughout the entire day there, so I wouldn’t say there is a deadline because it’ll be a continuous process as it has been for a few weeks,” said Nick Dunne, Public Information Officer for the City of St. Louis Mayor’s Office.

Dunne tells News 4 that 19 unhoused residents have accepted housing offers since issuing the eviction notice.

“It may be something as simple as needing an indoor space that is safe and sanitary for someone to sleep, with running water. Some people want to make sure they stay with their families or their partners. We’ve made sure that we have spaces available for them as well,” said Dunne.

Thursday, the city shared a list of some of those vendors the department of human services is working with to provide alternative housing with more than $15 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds used towards these resources.

“We are not going to move people out or into other spaces without guaranteeing we have resources that will address the individual needs of the people who are residing down at the riverfront encampment,” said Dunne.

Dunne says the city will have police at Laclede’s Landing for security purposes on Friday, but DHS and their clinical support staff will be the ones interacting with the unhoused population.

Doman and Youmans say people here remain skeptical that tomorrow will go smoothly.

“This is not people living here’s first time being evicted from this spot. A lot of these folks were at Interco Plaza before, they were at city hall before that, like if this actually housed people, people here would be housed,” said Doman. “I mean, a lot of people down here have jobs, they work during the day. They can’t just be here watching their stuff all day to make sure the city doesn’t’ bulldoze it.”

As for concerns that some unhoused residents have already been evicted from the Laclede’s Landing area prior to Friday, Dunne says police did assist outreach workers with getting individuals down there transported to housing and getting their items stored securely in a place where they can retrieve them.

However, even this raises some concerns for the unhoused population that remains.

“The city’s been down here a couple times throughout the week and having them bag all of their belongings and saying they’ll take them to a storage unit, but we know that that storage unit is on the south side, and you have to make an appointment to get into that storage unit,” said Youmans. “So, there’s a lot of weird complexities going on and there’s a very huge lack of transparency.”