Outreach advocates say some homeless still on the street following riverfront encampment closure

Days after the city’s efforts to clear out camps along the Laclede’s Landing riverfront, advocates for the unhoused population in St. Louis say many who were di
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 7:18 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Days after the city’s efforts to clear out camps along the Laclede’s Landing riverfront, advocates for the unhoused population in St. Louis say many who were displaced from the encampment still have not received help.

“Really everyone from the camp has reached out that we have strong relationships with. We think we have accounted for 28 people that are not in a shelter, [and] not in hotels. There is no housing,” said Audra Youmans. “If evictions got housing, these people would be housed.”

Youmans is a core team member with St. Louis Winter Outreach. She said some unhoused residents who lived along the riverfront, now completely fenced in, have moved across the river or re-established their campsite within a two-mile radius of Laclede’s Landing.

“Some people [who] went into those shelter spots where they got hotels, their check-out day was this morning and there was no follow-up,” said Youmans. “From what we can account for, maybe 12, 13, less than 15 absolutely got put into shelter spaces.”

According to a city spokesperson, outreach workers with the Department of Human Services are aware of other encampment locations in the city and continue to do outreach in those spots, but he said these sites are not a result of decommissioning the site on the landing.

“Absent of reasonable supply of affordable housing, we’ll probably see more encampments,” said Adam Pearson.

Pearson is the Chief Operating Officer of Peter and Paul Community Services. The organization has provided housing and support services to those experiencing homelessness for over 40 years. Pearson said while they were not directly involved the day residents were evicted from the landing, they assisted with providing emergency housing resources to a couple of people who were moved out.

“I know that between seven and 10 were sent our way. However, [as to the number] we ended up taking, I’d have to look at the data,” said Pearson. “We have more demand for housing than we do have supply in the area. And I think this is kind of a systemic issue in St. Louis. If we are able to provide more supportive housing, more affordable housing, and permanent supportive housing, I think we would see a decrease in some of the encampment areas, but I think we have to pair that with some of the supportive services that are needed.”

Without greater investment across the city into permanent supportive housing that also tackles job placement, mental health, and addiction, people like Youmans worry they will continue to see campsites like these come down.

“Now it’s just starting over from square one again of people are displaced. They’re not connected to the community they were connected with before,” said Youmans. “And it’s cold outside, we’re resupplying blankets, we’re giving new tents and things like that. This didn’t solve anything.”

A city spokesperson is working to verify concerns that many who were evicted here were not given housing resources. The city and DHS will also be reaching out to partners to make sure those who accepted resources do not slip through the cracks. A spokesperson tells News 4 they believe approximately 28 received housing assistance and resources and said it’s unlikely that all of those did not receive it.