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Camp Plum: St. Louis Shuts Down Homeless Riverfront Encampment, Relocates 24 Residents

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homeless-tent.jpg
via robertboettcherphotography.com
Hopeville encampment last year.
Last week, the city of St. Louis shut down a homeless riverfront encampment that officials say had become a dangerous environment for the 24 people living there. And the homeless individuals sleeping in tents on 2nd and Plum streets -- at the so-called "Camp Plum" -- have all been relocated to some sort of housing, according to the city's department of human services.

"This is really part of a bigger effort on our part to try to provide permanent supportive housing for all the [chronically homeless] people in the city of St. Louis," Bill Siedhoff, director of human services, tells Daily RFT. "Some of the people haven't been in their own homes in years.... They were so excited to have things we take for granted -- a bathroom, a kitchen, a bed. Those kinds of things are so fundamental."

Siedhoff says that since the camp was officially cleared out on Friday, no homeless people have returned.

See also:
- Hopeville's Days Are Officially Numbered: City Sets May 4 as Closure Date
- Will St. Louis Be the First City to End Chronic Homelessness?
- Robert Boettcher, Homeless Man Once Accused of Murder, Wins Photo Award

This shutdown comes after the city last year vacated an encampment north of the Arch grounds called Hopeville. The city says that there are a range of hazards that arise in these settings and that it's important that officials work to move these people indoors.

"We'll be monitoring that pretty carefully," Siedhoff says, noting that the city will look to stop any additional encampments that may form this summer. "When there's the beginning of an encampment...we will intervene immediately and engage them."

hopeville-2.jpg
via robertboettcherphotography.com
Hopeville last year.

His agency has been working for months to prepare for this latest shutdown and he tells us that all 24 of the people living at Camp Plum have secured stable housing.

In recent weeks, there have been increasing concerns about this new camp, in part due to a fire that ignited on site.

"It's very combustible in terms of people interacting in a way that's very dangerous," he says, noting that many of the chronically homeless individuals in the city struggle with mental health and other problems.

Though this can sometimes make it challenging to connect people to housing and services, in this latest camp closure, Siedhoff says, "We haven't found people who are resistant to help."

The city has placed them in housing and will pay for rent and utilities as part of a federal emergency shelter grant.

He emphasizes that St. Louis -- unlike some other cities across the country -- chooses not to arrest homeless people living in these kinds of encampments.

"What you do then is just build up hostility and put people in even worse circumstances," he says. "The more humane and decent thing to do is to work with people to get them out of these circumstances.... [In other cities], some very punitive measures are taken to deal with this kind of thing. We don't believe in doing that and don't intend on doing that."

He adds of last week's move, "The people were very happy to leave that location."

This effort, he notes, is part of a larger project to end chronic homelessness in the city, called "The Beginning of the End: Abolishing Chronic Homelessness," or the BEACH Project. The city says that, as of the latest count in January, there are 138 chronically homeless people in St. Louis. This refers to individuals who have been homeless for more than a year or have had four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. The 24 at Camp Plum fall in this category.

The city aims to connect all of these individuals to housing by the end of the year.

"This is a hard population to reach in some cases, because they are scattered," Siedhoff says, but adds, "We think we're on the cusp of ending chronic homelessness."

In a statement on the closure, Mayor Francis Slay says, "The solution to ending homelessness is not tent cities or temporary encampments, as they are not safe or humane places. Instead we want people to have a stable and healthy place to live, and that's what we are doing for the encampment residents."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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29 comments
JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

"The city has placed them in housing and will pay for rent and utilities as part of a federal emergency shelter grant."  Twisted logic for certain. The city is not paying. They shuffle money from the Feds. The Feds are not paying. They steal money from working Americans earning an income. The tax payers are paying. Please try to get that right just once!


Then let's get the the right terms to apply. They are not homeless. They have a home. It is a tent. Are the Bedouins homeless? Are gypsies homeless? No. They simply do not adhere to the lifestyle you deem appropriate.

Technically, I am homeless. I do not own a home. One who is without a home? I rent an apartment. Actually I am houseless, as my apartment is my home. The same can be said of someone who lives in a tent. And I have lived in a tent for three months. I never once considered myself homeless. I had a home. A canvas one I could put where I wanted to live.

Some people need to get off the streets. Others are doing just fine. When you are dealing with adults, let them decide. Do not decide for them. That is the foundation of our government - to allow people to pursue their own liberties. If the individual needs help, there are plenty of charitable organizations willing to help them. I donate to those charities. I prefer those needing help seek those charities rather than expect a taxpayer handout.

Michele Chapel
Michele Chapel

Sharon you need to educate yourself on what exactly happens at Larry Rices ..he does not provide services he exploits the homeless. This city is doing a pretty good job trying to find homes for those that want them unfortunately Rice's operation is deceiving and diverts a lot of private funds that could be used at places like St Patrick's Center the Bridge.. Christ Church Cathedral and other places that are actually doing some good. I have spent hours speaking to the homeless that live on our streets and most of the women and children fear Larry Rices is so called shelter... it is not staffed by trained individuals it is truly a hell hole in should be closed so that the people that are dropped off there could truly be directed to places that offer services

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

I think that we are lucky as a city that we have people like Reverend Larry Rice and other religious leaders as well as government officials like Mayor Slay who do care about the homeless. I am not thrilled about paying rent for anyone, especially if they are capable of working, unless it is for the extreme short term. I think we need to figure out how to create a work ethic in some people. If a person is down on their luck, okay, I get it. But...if they can work they should work.

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

Thus, I said "from what I've seen" ...... There is nothing in my post to suggest I've done some extensive city-wide research .... Clayton, CWE, Wash Ave, The Landing are not chokefull with homeless ppl. How about that

Timothy E. Wagner
Timothy E. Wagner

it really sucks when people have no pace to go then their home gets shut down.. then what? Is STL assisting with finding jobs for the homeless?

Thomas Doyle
Thomas Doyle

no.,the city seems hostile to the homeless and to Rev. Rice who does the most for the homeless.

Rob Compton
Rob Compton

You ever been raped or robbed in a homeless shelter? No? Well, then.. I can see why you're so clueless.

Rob Compton
Rob Compton

No shit. You don't see them so the're not there. The reverse is actually true for St. Louis. You won't see them where YOU go.

Rob Compton
Rob Compton

Anybody heard of the Housing First Model to end homelessness? I witnessed it in action in Asheville, NC with a non-profit called Homeward Bound. Homelessness is absolutely solvable. I'm convinced now.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

America is not very good with dealing with poverty. We as Americans would much rather blame people for being poor other than the system which is totally backwards.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Did it ever occur to you that a certain percentage of the homeless are victimized in those very same shelters?

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

STL does one of the best jobs when it comes to homeless ppl from what I've seen.... most other cities are flooded with ppl sleeping on the streets

Mike Schwab
Mike Schwab

A certain percent of the homeless don't want to obey the rules in a homeless shelter, and prefer to camp, no matter how many time you forcibly put them in a homeless shelter.

Darrell Ford
Darrell Ford

No, (as much as I hate to say this, because he strikes me as being"shysty") , Rev Rice has.

Christopher Harrison
Christopher Harrison

Depends. What, exactly, did the City do for/with the people living there?

Kirsten Mazzanti
Kirsten Mazzanti

Are they just shutting them down and then the homeless have no where to go? Or are they taking strides in helping the homeless get back on they're feet????

Clyde Rhoads
Clyde Rhoads

the river did flood, they were on the inside of the floodwall.

Jason Patrylo
Jason Patrylo

No. They need to look towards Portland. I think they are doing a great job at it.

steve.lemaitre
steve.lemaitre

@JamesMadison 

You're acting like people chose to live on the streets rather than having a real place to live, and you accuse the author of 'twisted logic'?

You think people grow up and think, "Well, I could be a banker and live in a mansion... but I think I'll just sleep on the concrete and eat out of a dumpster!"

You are delusional.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a job when you don't even have a real address?

Or how difficult it is to be 'homeless cause I have an apartment' when you don't have a job?

Don't be a trolling idiot.  If you can't offer up something constructive, then just keep it to yourself.

steve.lemaitre
steve.lemaitre

@Timothy E. Wagner

There is job assistance out there for the homeless... the real problem is that there aren't enough jobs in the city, and those jobs simply don't pay enough.

You would be stunned at the number of people that are working homeless, as difficult as that is.

You really can't get a decent job without a real place to live; just imagine trying to do your job when you carry all of your clothes with you in a trash bag all day long... either you have no other clothes so you don't need the bag, or you have to be able to take the bag to work with you... and that isn't even taking into consideration your ability to do laundry.

Obviously, this seriously limits your job prospects... and jobs are limited enough in the city.

You can't get a place to live when you are only able to find a job making $7/hour, and you can only get 20 hours/week.

This only gets worse when you consider the number of homeless men that owe child support... this can take away as much as 65% of their income, which means they will never be able to afford a real place to live, which means they can't get a real job, which means they can never catch up on the child support.

The real solution *must* start with housing first, otherwise it simply doesn't work.

steve.lemaitre
steve.lemaitre

@Kirsten Mazzanti 

They are working on the "out of sight, out of mind" model for solving the homeless problem.

As long as they don't see it, it isn't a problem.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@steve.lemaitre, you really should stop to read a post before prejudging its contents. You also need to realize not everyone is the same. Yes, there are some people who choose to live on the streets when adequate housing is available to them. Yes, there are plenty who would rather have a fixed, firm shelter to call a home. Both of those types are out there. Then there are some who think they can live outdoors in a tent, but have no ability to do so through storms, heat, or cold. But there are some who can and do just fine. Diversity happens in the homeless crowd, too.

The city is forcing all those tent dwellers to move. For some it is a good thing. For some just rude big government thinking they know best. We need to start treating all adults (save the mentally handicap) as adults. Adults can decide whether they wish to remain in a tent or seek the charity of others in a shelter. We, The People, in the form of our government ought not be making such a personal decision for them. They are adults. Present them with their options. Help them. Do not tear down their tents because Steve or a few civic leaders think living in a tent is a poor decision.

What I offered in one hand was liberty for all. Yes, with liberty comes the risk of not not achieving your goals and dreams. But then with the other hand I offer charity. I choose to allow adults to decide which hand they wish to take. And I do not fault those that ask for both hands, too.

If you wish to talk unemployment, look no further than your big government getting in the way of helping others earn a little each day until they can get back on their feet. It is not easy. Never was. Hard work is still required, and always was. When big government prevents you from working temporarily below minimum wages, zero wages are the result.

steve.lemaitre
steve.lemaitre

@JamesMadison @steve.lemaitre

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered..."

~ Thomas Jefferson

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@steve.lemaitre, I'll readily admit I only read half your rant. You got off topic so quickly, that I lost interest. This is about tent city and the forced evacuation of it.

 Big government decided an apartment was better than a tent. No choice to remain in a tent. You must move.

Had smaller government come to say, "Hey, we have some vacant apartments we can let you use if you want to move there," I'd have much less of a problem with the intervention. I'd prefer a charitable solution rather than a government one, but hey, if the people really wanted to get out of the tents, fine. 

 But that is not what happened. They were given two choices, move or move. Big government solution is that big government knows best.

Your ability to prejudge others is amazing. You think your myopic view of the world fits everyone. You do not know me.  I give to those needing charity and who are willing to ask for it. Those not needing it or those demanding it, no, I do not give. During the last heat wave, I did not see you (or anyone else) out there with me handing out water bottles. And yes, I've been threatened by big government for doing so. Come back when you've been out there dealing with the problem firsthand. Not thinking about blaming others or believing a call for more taxes is a solution when it never reaches those truly in need and asking for help.

Now go back and read what YOU wrote. Henry Ford did not need big government to tell him what to pay his employees. And for the record, I was talking about someone picking up an odd job, not a full time job or even regular parttime work. but you can twist that however you wish.

Rant on.

steve.lemaitre
steve.lemaitre

@JamesMadison @steve.lemaitre

I did read the post.

I find it full of the same old "They choose to be unemployed and homeless; let them" that we have heard from 'conservatives' for the last 3 decades.

To be fair, I'm not an Obama supporter in the least... I think Fox News was dead on when they termed this "Bush's Fourth Term", but I am less gleeful about it than they were.

As for choosing between a tent and a shelter, you are choosing between 50 cents and a half dollar.

There are a lot of reasons someone would choose a tent over a shelter... lack of population problems (fights, disease, theft, etc) being probably one of the main reasons.

This is completely different than choosing a tent over, say, an apartment... and none of these people seem to have a problem with choosing the apartment.

When they ran over tent city with a bulldozer? All the complaints from the homeless that I know where due to the assumption that they would be forced into shelters... instead, the city got them apartments, and I haven't heard a single complaint about that except from the people that were in shelters when the decision was made and did not get the same treatment.

As for "When big government prevents you from working temporarily below minimum wages, zero wages are the result."

If you tell big business that they are allowed to pay whatever they want, very quickly, they will conspire together (as they routinely do in every industry) and the wage for the average worker would end up 25 cents an hour.

This mindset leads quickly to direct slavery.

This is why the law was enacted in the first place.

I believe it was Henry Ford who set the minimum wage at his factories to $5/day, almost twice the average.  He also dropped the working day from 9 hours to 8.

He claimed it was "one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made".  He also stated that all factories should increase the wages for their workers, "Otherwise, who will buy my cars?"

The business leaders in this modern-day, trickle-down world seem to forget that; laying off workers by replacing them with ever increasing automation.  When this process began, the Taylor method created unprecedented levels of unemployment which pillaged the economy, and was one of the major factors that contributed to the Great Depression.. which was stopped only by "Big Government" stepping in and becoming a leading employer; which, of course, lead to us being a deficit nation.

While I agree that "Big Government" leads to deficits, the conservatives have no employment options to replace it with.  

They continue to reward big business with massive tax breaks, despite those same businesses 'streamlining' by laying off as many workers as possible, while automating their processes to produce as much as possible at the lowest cost possible.

That is the entire idea behind modern industry.

And this isn't simply in manufacturing. The service industry is finding ways to eliminate as many jobs as possible... everything from 'order online' to 'Press 1 for our automated information line!'.  Those jobs that do still need to be done by an actual human are shipped overseas where they can hire labor for pennies on the dollar.

Why can they hire labor overseas for pennies on the dollar?  Is it because American workers are just too greedy?  No... its because our cost of living is that much higher than in those nations... because the same people laying us off have forgotten those words from Ford: "WHO ELSE WILL BUY MY CARS?"

And this is, of course, before we consider 'downsizing'.  They ran out of jobs to cut on the manufacturing lines, so they started cutting the people that supervised the line.  The entire idea of a 'middle manager' in this country has become a running joke.

The entire time, we have been fed the story that 'they need to slim down to remain profitable', yet the reality is, these companies are becoming more and more profitable.  Not since the 1920's have we seen this level of income disparity.

The middle class is disappearing, 

These businesses are becoming more profitable (cutting employes while increasing production does seem to do that) to the point that the top 1%'s share of income in this country has TRIPLED since 1978. The CEO's make, on average, 380x more than their average employee.

"Eliminate minimum wage"? ... If we these people already have the power to wipe out the middle class like this; how well do you think that will turn out?  How many people would you expect to find on the street if minimum wage was eliminated?  You think that will make things better?

People already can't survive on minimum wage in this country... you think cutting their wages will save them?

These are the same people that claimed that taxing the rich amounted to class warfare.

THIS IS, AND HAS BEEN, CLASS WARFARE.

What you see in the streets are its casualties.

Just a few other lines that we have been fed that help, directly, to create this problem?

"Corporation are people, too" (Right, so try throwing a few in jail)... "Giving money to politicians is Freedom of Speech" (So. they just have more 'freedom of speech' than I do, right?)... "Free markets will adjust" (except they aren't free when you keep giving the big companies huge tax breaks, buyouts, and incentives)

I know that all the papers are focussing on the drunks and the mentally ill... but I have seen everyone from financial planners (one got screwed in a Ponzi scheme, one got nailed for insider trading), a Personal Trainer (gym got shut down), Programmers (jobs went overseas), Middle Managers (do you even have to ask?), etc.

The homeless are not all who you think they are.  Many of them you wouldn't even notice if they moved in next door.

As for "hard work"... this is yet another line of BS that we have been thrown.

Who works harder?  The guy working in the steel mill (which has now closed down, and gone to China)... or the CEO that spends his days on the 3 martini lunch and golfing to 'get down to business'?

I think we both know.

I am not saying that a CEO doesn't do anything... he makes his company more profitable by laying people off... I am asking if his "hard work" is really worth a multi-million dollar salary, yearly bonuses, and a "golden parachute", while the steel worker is denied unemployment and has his pension taken away?

And you really want to tell me that you are charitably giving people the "freedom" to live in a tent?

"Let them eat cake".

You are either completely blind, or you are an arrogant, cold-hearted bastard.  Take your pick.

Personally, I am guessing it is a little of both.

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