‘Unhoused bill of rights’ on STL Board of Aldermen’s radar

A renewed push to pass an ‘Unhoused bill of rights’ in St. Louis in the new legislative session is being met with mixed reaction.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 10:18 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A renewed push to pass an ‘Unhoused bill of rights’ in St. Louis in the new legislative session is being met with mixed reaction.

Newly re-elected board president Megan Green says the legislation will be a priority in the upcoming legislative session, which starts next week.

The legislation is not a new idea, and has floated around in progressive circles for years as a way to guarantee equal treatment and fairness to homeless people and prevent unfair evictions.

Green says this version would seek to repeal ordinances that criminalize “acts of being homeless”, like non-aggressive panhandling and sleeping outside. Green says she also wants to establish a safe camping spot in the city to centralize support operations for homeless people.

“It helps link people to services while still recognizing that not everybody’s ready to be housed,” Green said.

Similar efforts by Green in 2017 and by now-former Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia last year did not make it far. But with progressives having a strong showing in this April’s aldermanic elections, the tide may be turning.

But the Downtown Neighborhood Association isn’t sold on the proposal. Dan Pistor is on the safety committee and says the legislation could hinder efforts to police encampments, like the one recently removed by the city on Laclede’s Landing.

“We’re afraid it will handcuff the city and the police department from being able to address those encampments and some of the illegal stuff that occurs there,” Pistor said.

Pistor says he wants to make sure homeless get the services they need, but says the bill could result in more encampments that are harder to clear out. Green insists that homeless people are far more often the victims, not the perpetrators of crime.

Jerry Dixon used to be homeless but received support to get off the street. He still frequents an area near Laclede’s Landing trying to help others.

“When you take it all in a nutshell, homeless are really considered the scum of the world,” Dixon said. “[If] somebody dosome harm to somebody, [the] First thing they are gonna say is ‘it’s the homeless people.’ But it doesn’t always be like that.”