ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - A group of concerned citizens staged a sit-in at St. Louis City Hall Wednesday (Jan. 30) in hopes they would send a message to city leaders. A group organizer said they want an established emergency walk-in shelter for individuals in need during extreme weather.
A St. Louis city spokesperson said warming buses are available at 13th and Market from 5-7 p.m. People are invited to warm up on the bus, then volunteers from St. Louis Winter Outreach will give them a ride to one of the city's temporary shelters.
Tuesday night (Jan. 29), faith and community-based groups opened an additional 11 emergency pop-up shelters, adding 341 more beds. The city reports 179 people stayed in the overflow shelters.
"Imagine you are outside and a stranger comes up to you and says, 'Hey, I've got this place and it's safe and you should come to it,'" said Elad Gross, a constitutional attorney, and organizer of the sit-in. "If you've never heard of it before, you haven't been there before, it's not a familiar place to you, I don't think most of us are going to say yes to that."
The city said 17 individuals declined to be taken to one of the city’s warming shelters.
St. Louis Winter Outreach volunteers plan to continue their efforts Wednesday night to bring people in from the life-threatening chill.
In partnership with the Salvation Army, St. Louis County operates a shelter with 255 beds year-round at 10740 Page Avenue. From December through March, the county opens a 24-hour warming center which provides space for an additional 48 people.
Even with more than 300 beds available, space fills up quickly during weeks like this.
"When that is at capacity, and of course we get stretched particularly at this time, we do have hotel/motel overflow that provides that additional service that we know is needed at this time," said Yusef Scoggin, Director of Human Services for St. Louis County.
Thursday morning (Jan. 31), St. Louis County will conduct its annual point in time count, which counts the number of people experiencing homelessness who do not have shelter. An "unsheltered homeless" person is someone living in a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, a campground or any place not meant for human habitation.
These counts are conducted each year because money and resources to fight homelessness are awarded to communities based on documented counts of homeless persons and families.
For more information:
St. Louis County Homeless Programs - 314-802-5444
Homeless Hotline - 314-802-5444 (VOICE)
Toll-Free - 866-802-7155