With temperatures dipping in and out of dangerous lows, St. Louis County leaders are preparing to expand warming shelter services.
Starting Monday, December 19, the county will team up with the Salvation Army for a 24/7 shelter located at 10740 Page. The facility, with room for 48 people, will be open through March 13.
This shelter is only one piece of the county's plan to address homelessness. They are trying a new approach, which puts housing first.
"Just stop and think about it. If you had a roof over your head, you could concentrate on a job search, getting mental health issues resolved, looking at the substance abuse that a lot of the homeless popular suffer from," said Andrea Jackson-Jennings, St. Louis County Department of Human Services director.
Getting homeless people a place to stay first is part of a mandate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But, the county faces a unique challenge when it comes to fulfilling mandates like this.
"St. Louis County has over 500 square miles of land mass so it makes it a little more challenging for us to identify and even have a central location for homeless folks to gravitate to," said Jackson-Jennings.
That census is so important because funding depends on the count.
Based on 2015's point-in-time count, the county served 1,225 individuals. Jackson-Jennings said they spend about $3.5 million annually on services that include emergency shelter, permanent housing, and prevention services.
Now, they have fully implemented a new process that will take a more deliberate regional approach.
"We recognize that homelessness doesn’t have any geographic boundaries," said Jackson-Jennings, acknowledging that homeless people can often move between the city and county, in addition to coming from out of town.
"We currently are in partnership with the city and county Continuum of Care. What we are doing is asking that all of our service providers implement the coordinated entry approach and that approach offers a universal assessment tool as well as a centralized client database with multiple access points for individuals that are seeking housing," said Jackson-Jennings.
This system will ensure that the groups who provide services for the homeless are on the same page as far as how many people they are dealing with and what their specific needs are, like if they have children or substance abuse issues.
St. Louis City leaders recently told News 4 they received a $300,000 grant that they will use to encourage and expand a regional approach.
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