Local nonprofits work with lawmakers to improve funding and resources for Missouri’s unhoused population

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Lawmakers and nonprofit groups are hoping a new Senate bill could change the projection of homelessness in Missouri. It’s a bill that could provide opportunities for better funding and resources for the unhoused population across the state.

“It started over three years ago. Family problems, depression,” Timothy Graves said.

“Battling with addiction for a few years now. Kind of reached a boiling point with me and my mom. It was time for me to leave,” Julius Butler said.

Graves and Butler are both unhoused St. Louisans. For years, they’ve been in and out of shelters. Now, they’re utilizing the St. Patrick’s Center’s resources to get back on their feet. Graves said he’s taking job classes, getting help with his resume and is able to get newer clothes from St. Pat’s. Butler said he’s primarily seeking out housing opportunities and job placement. They both said Senate Bill 1106 (SB1106) could be a saving grace.

“There’s more homeless people than there are shelters. If we could get more funding to open more shelters, get more resources for people, just make people more aware of just how big a problem it is, that would help a lot,” Butler said.

Southeast Missouri Republican Senator Holly Thompson Rehder is the bill’s sponsor. It’s a bill that would allot funding to local governments and nonprofits for intentional encampments and transitional resources.

“We’re really hopeful and optimistic that it will help,” Anthony D’Agostino said.

D’Agostino is the CEO of the St. Patrick’s Center. He said they’re wanting to see more specifics in the bill laying out exactly what resources can and cannot be used for. St. Patrick’s Center specifically. D’Agostino said he wants to see a community where the unhoused can have a one-stop shop.

“More like a tiny home community with actual structures that gives someone to get out of the cold, get out of the weather, some facilities, and then wrap around services there too,” D’Agostino said.

While D’Agostino said he’s in favor of most of the bill, he also expressed concerns. He said the fines and charges that could be brought to the unhoused for being on certain property, like sleeping or camping on state-owned land, concern him.

“We never like to get into the idea of criminalizing homelessness. We wanna get them the help they need, they desperately need. We don’t see that happening with incarceration,” D’Agostino said.

D’Agostino said his biggest concern is the lack of detail in the legislation itself.

“Good intentions, but the devil sometimes is in the details with how it’s implemented and interpreted, and if it’s implemented and interpreted different than it’s intended, then that could really hurt the people on the ground,” D’Agostino said.

Graves and Butler said they want people to relax judgment on those who are unhoused. They said having additional resources and a physical place to go could elevate things tremendously.

“When you don’t have to worry about housing, or food, or clothes, then you can really rise up mentally. Then, you can really think on a higher level and do greater things,” Butler said.

News 4 reached out to Rehder’s office, but she was unavailable for an interview. The St. Patrick’s Center is meeting with her tomorrow to go over the bill’s language and work through details. News 4 will keep following this bill as it’s still in committee.