STL Board of Aldermen to consider ‘Unhoused Bill of Rights’ this week
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -- Some city leaders are proposing legislation that would change city policies on shelters and homelessness.
Megan Green, the president of the Board of Aldermen, said she and Ward 7 Alderman Alisha Sonnier would introduce several bills this week that would ease restrictions on opening homeless shelters, including a proposal to eliminate a petition requirement for such facilities.
Other proposals would protect people living in encampments through an “Unhoused Bill of Rights.” They would include a requirement for the city to find shelter space for people before disbanding a campsite, as well as establishing safe zones for camping that would include access to food, water and other resources.
“As it stands, the current process for opening shelters to meet the needs of unhoused residents is all but guaranteed to end in failure,” Green said.
Some neighborhood groups have expressed concern about the proposed changes, particularly the elimination of the signature requirement.
Ken Ortmann, a former alderman, said many communities have feared that such changes would hurt their ability to determine what kinds of facilities can move into a neighborhood.
“You’re taking away the voice from community members who are invested in St. Louis,” Ortmann said.
Other critics have expressed concern that offering more shelter space would only serve as a temporary fix and have the unintended consequence of inviting more people seeking services into the area. Matt O’Leary, a developer and downtown resident, called shelters a bad policy tool.
“The likely effect is that we’re going to grow the homeless population of St. Louis. That’s a step backward,” he said.
Green acknowledged that neighborhood pushback could prove difficult to overcome as the legislation is discussed.
“I think a lot of the education we need to do this process is breaking the stigma that goes along with being unhoused,” she said.
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