Encampment off I-44 and Hampton Avenue torn down by MoDOT, city crews

Another homeless encampment in the Metro has now been packed up and removed.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 5:53 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Another homeless encampment in the Metro has now been packed up and removed.

“I was horrified that the war on poverty has become the war on the impoverished,” said Larry Rice, Director of the New Life Evangelistic Center.

Rice has been working with the unhoused population in the community for over 50 years and was frustrated to learn about this latest effort to remove a campsite in the city. This one was located on the hilltop next to the I-44 westbound ramp off Hampton Avenue.

“This notice to vacate is based on no trespassing and the safety of all those present,” said Michelle Forneris, MoDOT’s Assistant District Engineer.

The notice to vacate, placed at this encampment earlier this month, comes months after the state’s ban on camping on state-owned land went into effect.

“So, these people are pushed out of here and they’re pushed and they just keep moving and moving like nomads, like refugees in our midst,” said Rice.

Other advocates for the unhoused population say this encampment has been at I-44 and Hampton in some shape or form for at least two years, but there were only about three people living there at the time MoDOT issued the notice.

Forneris tells News 4 the motivation for clearing out this encampment has more to do with public safety for motorists and the unhoused living here than the recent law against camping on state-owned land.

“It is not safe for them to be set up in the state maintained right of way,” said, “A vehicle could go out of control and strike them or the litter, debris, fire hazards of their location and where they’re located [could impact them].”

A spokesperson for the city says the belongings for the unhoused will be secured while they find a new place to stay.

“They’re not addressing the root problem that people can’t afford any more than first and last month’s rent,” said Rice. “And if they’ve ever been evicted, they aren’t finding another place. There’s not enough shelters at all. They continue to close down the shelters.”

The city tells News 4 outreach with the Department of Human Services have been reaching out directly to those who were unhoused at the campsite. They say two initially accepted shelter resources.

As of this afternoon, one declined those resources.

News 4 spoke to two individuals living there ahead of the cleanup off camera, who at the time said they were not sure where they would go to next.

“We’ve got to come up with permanent housing. we also have to come up with a permanent place that these individuals can be at. Come up with jobs for them. Help them break the cycle of homelessness,” said Rice.

Nick Desideri, communications director for the office of the mayor, said 26 people were connected to supportive services and housing after the March 10 closure of a homeless encampment.