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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the category “homelessness”

Biddle House and Homelessness in St.Louis

I have previously written that St. Patrick Center and St. Peter’s and Paul who jointly operate Biddle house, a shelter for homeless men, will soon give up their contract with the City of St. Louis who owns the facility. The reason for this decision is that the operation has proven too expensive with the operators losing upwards of $500,000 in the first year.On Tuesdays I volunteer to help serve lunch at Biddle House. I learned today that the City of St. Louis will operate the facility directly. This of course raises some questions;1. Do they have the capacity to run it? St. Patrick Center is a great operator and they could not be successful financially.2. Do they have the financial resources to operate it? Again, if others lost $500,000 operating Biddle, where would the city get the funds to be successful?3. It is apparent that Larry Rice who ran a shelter for years and was finally shut down operated on a shoestring.4. What does this say about the future of homeless care in St. Louis?Written by Paul Dribin

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Homeless Services in St. Louis

The ongoing provision of homeless services in St. Louis is very much up in the air. The story is rather complicated and has been partially described in these pages before.

New Life Evangelical Church led by Reverend Larry Rice had provided overnight homeless services to just about anyone who wanted it. He was always in trouble with the city for good reason; he housed far too many people in his facility, didn’t agree to any reporting, etc. Add to this criticism from newly arrived Yuppies who lived downtown and he was shut down.

To make up for the New Life Demise, the city bought Biddle House on the near north side and hired St Patrick’s Center and St. Peter’s and Paul to operate it. I have frequently volunteered there and consider the facility to be well run. The problem is that both agencies who operate it lost huge amounts of money and cannot sustain the operation. Neither organization nor anyone else has responded to a RFP for continuing the services. Of course where this leave homeless people is very much up in the air. Written by Paul Dribin

chicago.suntimes.com/news/homeless-cps-families-study-10000/

a good article describing the extent of the homeless problem in Chicago

Housing for Homeless Veterans

www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/homeless-veterans-get-a-new-start-at-north-county-apartment/article_4de041f7-6770-5b59-84ec-9d4baf8f1418.html

Article about facility in north county for homeless vets

St. Patricks Center

I wanted to write today about the amazing work being accomplished by St. Patricks Center, the largest provider of homeless services in Missouri. I am privileged to offer some help as a volunteer to the organization.

St Patricks of course provides a men’s shelter and meals. More important they provide a whole network of social, housing, and supportive services to help end homelessness. They operate permanent housing communities and provide a whole range of supportive services. Their facility even provides a job incubator.

The Executive Director of St. Patricks Center is Laurie Phillips who is a remarkably talented and caring person. St. Louis is luckily to have this organization. Written by Paul Dribin

Homelessness in St. Louis

Activists in St. Louis have mounted demonstrations against the Mayor and other city officials over the issues of homelessness. They have criticized the city for not making more homeless beds available and doing a better job of housing the homeless population. A poster child for this action has been a homeless man who died in a portapot before Christmas.

That gentleman’s story is symptomatic of the homeless problem. This individual had refused help from his family and from workers in an office building near his portapot. He consistently refused help; most likely having a mental health problem. I don’t know of any way the city could have managed this situation.

I work closely with the homeless issue in St. Louis. I help serve lunch every week at Biddle House. When the Larry Rice facility was shut we did not notice an upswing in people coming in for lunch. Where did his alleged population go? Also, as pointed out by the city, if there is an overflow in shelters churches step in and house people.

I don’t believe there are people sleeping on the streets who could not be admitted to shelters. I also believe if we built ten more shelters they would be full. The issue is complicated, but homelessness is a more fluid situation than most people understand. The answer to the problem is permanent supportive housing. Written by Paul Dribin

Homelessness as Part of a Housing Continuum

In the housing world it seems for the most part that people deal either with affordable housing and homelessness. One develops and manages projects and the other provides services for homeless people. I have discovered that really affordable housing is one continuum with chronic homelessness where poverty and mental illness interact. Other people are periodically homeless due to circumstances such as job loss or divorce; these people are acutely homeless. Finally many other people on the continuum lack affordable housing and suffer from the results. They tend to pay too much of their income for housing, live in substandard housing, or double up. All of these folks need both housing support and social services to a greater or lesser degree. Housing practitioners would do well to view both housing and homelessness this way. Often our view of these issues get nuanced by our day to day work and funding sources. Written by Paul Dribin

The Ghost of Larry Rice

The Reverend Larry Rice has been a controversial figure in St. Louis. For years he ran a homeless shelter and refused to cooperate with authorities, did not allow inspections, made religious conversion a requirement for admission, allegedly housed many more people than he was licensed for, and required residents of his facility to work for free on his farm. He also owns a radio station. Reverend Rice was a constant thorn in the nose of the establishment.

I argue that even more important, his work was a hinderance to homeless people improving their lives. I have a friend who is a former homeless person who said Rice actually enable homeless behavior and got in the way of people looking and preparing for jobs. I help serve lunch at Biddle House which is affiliated with St. Patrick’s Center. When Reverend Rice’s facility was finally shut by the city, we expected to find many more people coming for lunch. Actually, we did not. Our conclusion is that Reverend Rice never had nearly as many people living in his facility as he claimed. Rice has tended to be a popular figure with liberals because he thumbs his nose as the establishment. That support was a big mistake. Written by Paul Dribin

Health Care and Housing

More research is showing that good health outcomes are dependent on decent housing. We know that people who live in-substandard housing are more likely to have health problems, more frequently get admitted to emergency rooms. Excessive hospital stays for uninsured people drive up health care costs significantly. Hospitals are beginning to partner with housing professionals to find decent housing for frequent fliers to hospitals. I hope this starts to happen in St. Louis. Written by Paul Dribin

Designing a More Inclusive City

A way for St. Louis to prosper is to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible. An article I just read in the New Yok Times describes how often through subtle measures we exclude people. An example the author cited was the lack of comfortable seating in public spaces. These measures of course by themselves are not game changers but are part of an overall package that make cities appealing. Written by a Paul Dribin

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