“If we can subsidize sports stadiums, cortex, and a trolley, we can at least provide shelter and toilets for our own citizens,” said Kim Jayne during a meeting at City Hall in St. Louis which focused on the Unhoused Bill Of Rights and the increase in homelessness in October 2023.
My name is Kim Jayne. I live in the 9th Ward and I also work at the Wellstone Loop CDC, which is in the 13th Ward at Hodiamont and Martin Luther King. I’ve been a native of St. Louis since 1960.
Our drop-in center at Martin Luther King Dr. and Hodiamont Ave. is open three days a week. We help people with hot food, clothing, supplies, and a place to use a bathroom and wash up. We also assist people who are seeking housing and health care.
One of the biggest needs we work on is access to substance abuse treatment. We have peer support specialists. We help people navigate the system and facilitate recovery groups.
We also distribute and administer Narcan and engage people most at risk of overdose and the effects of living without housing, running water, or heat. We’ve had hundreds of people in the last year die of overdoses in the city. As you can see, we have sign-in sheets here, a big pile of them, seven names on each sheet just in the last few months for people seeking help for, and most of the people that sign in write homeless on each sheet.
Permanent supportive housing is really the key to tackling homelessness, but emergency housing for anyone seeking it is what we need this winter. We must prevent a fiasco like the last Christmas’s cold front, which was met with false information and inadequate space. We need to address systemic failures in the public shelter system. Even if you get through to 211, they rarely have a bed for the night.
The Human Services Department reported that 1,300 people said they lived in abandoned properties without utilities, and humans try to stay warm when it’s cold. We lost firefighter Ben Poulsen last year, just a block from our building. Property loss to fire is awful, but the human loss is even worse. We know sometimes homelessness and substance abuse go together. We need to realize that the drugs that are prevalent on our streets are highly addictive and dangerous to draw from without medical assistance. Symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, sweats, and even the likelihood of a stroke trap people in a cycle that isn’t easy to get out of, especially without a safe place to live. Why is it easier and cheaper to find fentanyl and crack cocaine in this city than bread or a blanket?
If we can subsidize sports stadiums, cortex, and a trolley, we can at least provide shelter and toilets for our own citizens. You may say all we provide are band-aids. Well, that’s all we have right now. That, and we do have some thick gauze for wound care. We need more than band-aids. There’s a humanitarian crisis in our city that needs your leadership and all of our compassion. We must move from criminalization, shame, and blame to meeting basic human needs. We appreciate you supporting this legislation.