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City leaders consider setting up homeless camps outside vacant St. Louis schools

The plan would utilize federal government pandemic relief funds.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis officials are considering a plan to locate homeless encampments outside some of the vacant city schools.

The $2 million plan came out of a hearing about how to spend $80 million in federal pandemic relief.

Farragut Elementary School in the Greater Ville is one of those recently closed by St. Louis Public Schools officials as a result of declining enrollment. Now, according to the "intentional encampments" plan, people who live nearby might go from having a neighborhood school to having a neighborhood homeless camp.

Grace Kyung, a senior strategic initiatives manager in Mayor Tishaura Jones' office, said: “We would be, potentially, if it was at a St. Louis Public Schools location, looking at possibly putting the encampment in a parking lot. But we wouldn't be taking up community spaces that exist. We're not looking at playgrounds or parks.”

Kyung emphasized it’s one of many plans being considered.

Raysean Adams lives across the street from Farragut.

“I actually went to the school when I was younger,” said Adams, “so I’ve been here since I was 7. If there's room where you can fit the houses in, that's a lot of space.”

A 5 On Your Side reporter pointed out that any possible intentional encampment would not made up of houses, but rather, likely tents.

“Well that's still good because it's space for them all together," he said. "So there can be resources for them all together to access.”

“Well I don't know, man, but, hey, they got to go somewhere,” said St. Louis resident Nancy Hannah. “As long as you monitor them, get the security guards around.”

Part of the program might include using the school’s facilities for things like laundry services.

Kyung said: “Again, we haven't picked a location. We're looking at all possible things. On-site laundry services is an option that we are also looking at, as we've been doing engagement with our unhoused neighbors.”

Farragut neighborhood renter Christon McClinton was asked about the impact on property values.

“The property values?” he said. “I feel like it may lower it, because homelessness is something that is looked down upon. But overall, I feel like it may be a good thing for our community, because it would have more people off the streets.”

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