The Near Northside

With compassion and empathy for the homeless, we just don’t believe the proposed location of the Biddle House Shelter is good for our neighborhood.

Like many areas in North St. Louis, the Near Northside has struggled for decades without an effective development strategy. Unfortunately, the legacies of Mill Creek, Pruitt-Igoe and the Team 4 plan still dictate our destiny. As a result, the Near Northside exhibits many economic and social disparities. These conditions continue to worsen as enormous numbers of poor residents are concentrated in a densely packed, crime-infested area physically separated from other business areas and neighborhoods. The Near Northside is and has been home to the region’s greatest concentration of public housing, section 8 housing, and low income housing tax credit units in facilities including Pruitt-Igoe, Cochran Gardens / Cambridge Heights, O’Fallon Place, Murphy Park, Neighborhood Gardens and many others.

Bringing even more pressure to our residents, the Near Northside is home to or immediately adjacent to areas housing the St. Louis region’s largest facilities that provide shelter to the homeless and ex-prisoners at risk of homelessness including St. Patrick Center, Sunshine Mission, NLEC, Gateway 180, and the 550 bed Missouri prison release center for un-housed recently released prisoners from the eastern half of Missouri.

Move Along

Pushing the Problem Out of Affluent Downtown to the Struggling Northside is Just Shifting the Problem From One Neighborhood To Another

Most of the region’s largest service providers for homeless men in particular are located either in the Near Northside or in Downtown St. Louis. Downtown ‘s politically connected stakeholders have been objecting vigorously to the continued presence Downtown of two large, disruptive service providers, New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC), which providers overnight shelter for up to 225 mostly men per night, and The Bridge, which provides 3 meals per day plus day shelter for up to 200 individuals, many of whom spend the night at NLEC.  The facilities have grown over the last few years and have become vastly more destructive, resulting in the Downtown community applying significant political pressure upon the Mayor’s Office to close them.

Starting a little over a year ago, in response to pressure from more affluent Downtown residents, the City of St. Louis decided to open a large City owned homeless shelter and meal provider to replace NLEC and The Bridge, as well as a City operated men’s shelter in the Park and Tucker recreation complex.  Moreover, the City decided  to use this new facility to ostensibly solve a long standing problem in homeless service delivery, which has been the lack of a robust,  scattered  site intake and assessment system to comply with federal government requirements.

The City, instead, decided to combine the intake and assessment function with the shelter and meal operation into a single, enormous facility at Biddle House.

Voices Ignored

After Promising to Engage In a Community Outreach Process to Understand and Address Concerns, The City Did Nothing.

When the plan was discovered to locate Biddle House at 1211 N. Tucker in the Near Northside, 5th Ward Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, and others in the community objected strenuously and repeatedly, including  direct contact with the Mayor’s Office. At that time, The City indicated that they understood the community’s concerns and would engage in a community outreach process to understand those concerns fully and make changes to the proposed facility to accommodate them.

However, no such process was ever undertaken.

After months of no transparency or communication, on January 11, 2016, the Mayor’s Office informed Alderwoman Hubbard that, despite her stringent and longstanding objections, and that of her partners in the Choice Neighborhoods process, the City of St. Louis had decided to move forward to open Biddle House this summer at 1211 N. Tucker.

The City will spend $2.2 million to construct the densest homeless shelter and service provider in the St. Louis Region at a crucial location within the Near Northside.

Biddle House is intended in part to replace three facilities currently located in the Downtown core or just south, the City’s shelter at the Park and Tucker recreation center, as well as NLEC and The Bridge, which serve large populations of homeless men that for years have devastated the areas around them with intense criminal activity including shootings, homicides, drug dealing, thefts, assaults, and many other toxic behaviors. These combined functions will almost certainly impact the already devastated Near Northside area more dramatically than they do Downtown St. Louis.

Even worse, the City has decided that Biddle House is not just going to be one node in the scattered site intake and assessment function it had previously planned and told the federal government it would implement, but instead will be the centralized intake and assessment facility for all homeless individuals in the region.

If Biddle House opens as threatened, every suburban police department, hospital systems, and church group will have explicit sanction and encouragement from the City to dump their unwanted homeless individuals in the middle of the Near Northside area, accelerating the continued decline of this devastated community.

Click Here For More Resources To Learn About Best Practices To Help The Homeless and How The City of St. Louis Has Taken the Wrong Course With Biddle House

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