“As the City of St. Louis plans to sweep its fourth and fifth encampments during this pandemic over the weekend, we felt it necessary to make the City aware of the consequences of its continued behavior of criminalizing, displacing, and traumatizing unhoused residents. The unhoused clients we serve have repeatedly told us that they feel under attack by the City. Today, we wrote Mayor Krewson to demand the City immediately stop its plans to further harm this community.” — ArchCity Defenders Statement
The full letter is available here.
EXCERPTS FROM LETTER:
Since March, the City’s repeated encampment evictions directly contravene the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for assisting the unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those guidelines make it clear that encampments should not be cleared unless individual housing options are available for the people living there. Based on our investigation and regular communication with encampment residents being displaced this weekend, the City has offered no individual housing options to the people living downtown.
Instead of providing individual units per CDC guidelines, the City purportedly only intends to offer congregate shelter space to people living under I-44 downtown. This is precisely the enclosed environment that jeopardizes the health and safety of individuals by encouraging the spread of COVID-19. In fact, there is a local shelter that is now temporarily closing to disinfect in light of a recent outbreak.
It is unconscionable that the City continues to invest in the misguided, short-term approach of displacing unhoused individuals, as opposed to investing in long-term and sustainable solutions that promote housing stability.
As this letter will address, the repeated and continued efforts to clear encampments also demonstrates a pattern and practice of displacement and criminalization that conflicts with federal guidelines, threatens the City’s ability to receive federal funding, and infringes upon individuals’ civil rights.
The City of St. Louis’ repeated displacement of homeless encampments and criminalization of unhoused residents conflicts with federal guidelines.
The City of St. Louis’ repeated displacement of homeless encampments and criminalization of unhoused residents jeopardizes the City’s ability to receive federal funding.
The City of St. Louis’ repeated encampment sweeps, in defiance of CDC guidelines, likely constitutes a violation of unhoused residents’ due process rights to be free from harm.
CONCLUSION OF LETTER:
For the above reasons, we demand that the City immediately halt any and all displacement of homeless encampments and take no further actions that would further exacerbate the devastating effects of COVID-19 on our unhoused community. To the extent that the City has any safety concerns related to our unhoused community, we demand that all actions be taken in consultation and with the involvement of the Continuum of Care and within the parameters outlined in CDC guidelines to reduce the impact of further harm to our fellow St. Louis residents.