Original post of KSDK News 5
Effective Jan. 2 in Missouri, a new law makes sleeping or camping on state-owned land illegal. The law also mentions funding for more resources, but the language has some shelters in the Greater St. Louis area concerned.
“Where will these individuals go? Where will they find a safe place to be?” Michael Robinson, City Hope St. Louis founder and CEO, asked in reaction to the new law.
“Some of them are there because they don’t fit into the traditional shelter care model,” he said.
Robinson said several people dealing with homelessness face mental health challenges and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), turning them away from traditional shelters.
“We want to make sure that we don’t criminalize homelessness,” CEO Anthony D’Agostino with the St. Patrick Center said.
He said he is worried about the way the bill could be implemented.
“No one wants to have a situation where people don’t have a home, so they have to encamp on state land,” he said.
The law could provide more opportunities for funding and resources for those facing homelessness across the state, something he said many can get behind. But he said the solutions to homelessness are clear.
“Creating more housing stock…getting more services to people and meeting them where they are…that’s going to decrease homelessness,” he said.
Robinson said he agrees with these solutions.
“…be able to find appropriate shelter spaces as well as providing additional resources to those that are providing shelters…,” Robinson said.
With more work to be done, D’Agostino said they hope to meet with legislators so that the future of this law works toward the same goal.
“One thing that makes it harder to get housed is a criminal background. So, it doesn’t really make sense if we all want to end homelessness to make it harder to get housing,” he said.
Both CEOs said they anticipate with this law and winter weather that they could see an increase in people at their shelters.
They are encouraging any volunteers or other help from the community for anyone able.