ST. LOUIS — A U.S. district judge on Saturday denied a temporary restraining order request filed by ArchCity Defenders over homeless tent encampments in downtown St. Louis.
The organization asked for the order to stop the displacement of people in the encampments after the City of St. Louis ordered the site to be vacated.
The city wanted the tents gone Friday morning because of concerns over COVID-19 and the lack of social distancing in those encampments.
Advocates told 5 On Your Side that outreach workers provided the tents for the homeless to give them some measure of social distancing during the pandemic. They had hoped the city would allow the camps to remain in place until the city's stay-at-home order is lifted.
The city remains under a stay-at-home order until further notice.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Pitlyk ordered a preliminary injunction hearing on this issue to be held at 10 a.m. on May 12.
Statement from City of St. Louis:
"We thank the federal court for their time and attention to this matter and are now focused on next steps. There continues to be safe and secure shelter with case management and other health and behavioral services for those who are willing to move into shelter."
Statement from ArchCity Defenders:
"Yesterday morning, on Friday, May 1, ArchCity Defenders filed a motion on behalf of our client, Renata Frank, for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the City of St. Louis from forcibly clearing the tent encampments directly across from City Hall along Market Street. Today, we learned that the judge denied the TRO.
As a result of this emergency litigation, and the mobilization and support of various groups and individuals that was required for this collective effort, the City has made a number of on-the-record guarantees as to how it will proceed. The City, through its lawyers, has stated:
- Individual hotel rooms will immediately be made available to every displaced person who wants one, along with taxi cabs to transport them to their hotel rooms;
- The City has no intention to issue citations or make arrests of unhoused residents of the tent encampments;
- COVID-19 testing will be provided to every person displaced from the encampments; and
- There are no plans to remove other tent encampments throughout the City, despite the language of the Health Director’s order encompassing all City parks.
- Several of these guarantees had not been offered at any point prior to the hearing on the TRO. The City must now be held to its promises.
In the two days between the time that officials from the Mayor’s office pinned notices to vacate on the tents in the Market Street encampments and the filing of the TRO on Friday morning, residents of the encampment were justifiably terrified that police would appear, as they had before, remove their personal belongings, remove the residents under threat of citation or arrest; and that they would have nowhere to go. People like our client, Ms. Frank, had been told repeatedly that there were no housing options available, that they were on waitlists, that the only alternatives were congregate settings that would not offer private space or social distance, or that the available options would require couples and families to voluntarily separate.
Now, as a result of this emergency litigation, people like Ms. Frank and other residents of the encampments standing up and resisting, committed outreach workers and volunteers on the ground, and everyday people demanding that the City treat unhoused people with dignity and compassion, there is a community that will be holding the City accountable for the promises that they have made. ArchCity Defenders will continue to work with this community to monitor progress and gather relevant evidence in advance of the preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 12.
We have been told that, during yesterday’s federal court argument, those in the encampments listened together over a loudspeaker as their case was heard. We are most proud that they know there are people standing with them and fighting for just and equitable treatment alongside them, and we will continue to do so."
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