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'Our best is not good enough': St. Louis advocates for unhoused race to make bed space

The City of St. Louis is changing strategies to open more beds than last winter though they will not be available until Dec. 1.

ST. LOUIS — Tucked into a Maryland Heights neighborhood, staff at Loaves and Fishes know they're trying to stay above the surface in their fight against homelessness but they need more space for the lifeboats.

"Unfortunately right now, our best is not good enough. The need is growing at a very rapid pace, growing quicker than funding, growing quicker than bed spaces," Executive Director Jacki MacIntosh said.

Advocates for the unhoused say the St. Louis region needs more housing options in the immediate and long term to serve their clientele.

At Loaves & Fishes for St. Louis Inc., that means another location: a 40-bed program to address the outdoor camps that surround the corridor near Lemay Ferry Road and Bayless Avenue.

"It will directly address those living on the streets and get those individuals off the streets and into a program that they can work and find stable housing," she said.

"We need to do better as a community. We just do," St. Patrick Center CEO Anthony D'Agostino said. 

Standing among small pockets of melting snow, D'Agostino said this is a particularly crucial time of year for the unhoused.

"I'm very concerned for the people who are literally outside because this is when it gets scary, it gets dangerous," he said.

Those concerns grow as the temperatures drop with overnight forecasts showing temperatures in the 20s and teens.

They also come as St. Louis leaders try a new strategy to address housing struggles long-term.

Last year, the city opened 130 overnight beds. 

This year, they plan to open 200 and make them available 24 hours a day.

But those beds don't open until Dec. 1.

D'Agostino's St. Patrick Center will cut the ribbon on another 24-unit facility in the Greater Ville neighborhood Wednesday. McFarlane Place will put clients in housing faster with fewer administrative delays.

"Unfortunately it feels like a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of what we need," D'Agostino said.

But MacIntosh said every drop in the bucket is another person off the streets when shelter stays are getting longer for her clients.

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