ST. LOUIS — As of Thanksgiving Day, it was estimated there are at least more than 3,000 homeless people in the St. Louis region.
"That number is growing and really we believe there are many more, and that's why we must help them," said Bishop Michael Robinson, the CEO and founder of the nonprofit group City Hope.
Robinson wishes he could feed, house and help all of them become more productive citizens.
"If I could open our shelter to its maximum capacity, for them, it would be amazing," Robinson said.
On Thursday, Robinson, his staff members and volunteers gathered at the City of Hope St. Louis shelter near North Taylor and St. Louis Avenue to provide Thanksgiving meals to people who don't have a place to call home.
"It's a great joy for me to serve, help and cook, whatever I do. I love it," said Stephanie Prechard with City Hope.
Last Thanksgiving, the nonprofit teamed up with several organizations and fed and offered temporary shelter to nearly 300 homeless people. But this year?
"Here at this one shelter alone, we will be able to shelter 20 to 30 individuals and feed them."
"Yes, it's substantially lower," said Bishop Robinson.
And it's all due to the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Bishop Robinson's biggest fear?
"On a night like tonight with the temperature beginning to drop, we could turn away another 20 or 30 people," added Robinson.
People he says may not go to area shelters.
Instead, they will sleep on cold bus stops, corners and streets.
"City Hope is in the business of saving lives and that's what we need to do every night," Bishop Robinson said.
Even in the face of COVID-19, the community servants remain committed this holiday, helping the homeless.
"I would support Bishop Robinson always. They are doing a good job," said a homeless man who has turned to City of Hope for assistance.
Meantime, Robinson and his team say they will be back on Christmas.
"We can't give up. My team is focused. They know that they are front line workers and they are dedicated to making sure that our unhoused community members are taken care of," Robinson said.