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Homelessness On the Rise in St. Charles County

Volunteers headed out on Jan. 25 to count the number of homeless people in an annual census. The trends point to more people living doubled up or in hotels.

On Jan. 25, I took to the streets in St. Peters to look for homeless people.

It was my first year to participate in the Point-in-Time Homeless Count for St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren Counties.

Coordinated through the Department of Housing and Urban and Development (HUD), agencies such as the Community Council of St. Charles County agree to gather data and document homelessness throughout the United States. It is done the last week of January each year.

Since 2004, Dottie Kastigar, the Community Development Program Coordinator at the Community Council has collected information about both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people. She uses this data to track trends and provide information to apply for state and federal funding for resources to meet the needs of these people in our communities.

My partner for the count, Cindy Saparito, and I had a big section of St. Peters to cover. This was Cindy’s second year to be on a street team and I was grateful for her experience.

It was gray and rainy as we set out around 9 a.m. We stopped along well-travelled roads and stopped in convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. We talked to employees, and almost everyone had a story to tell.

“There’s a woman with a suitcase I see a lot,” one person said.

“This older man comes in, sits at a table with a supersize drink all day long,” another person said. This man was there in the restaurant at the time.

By 3:30 p.m. I had pages of notes that included descriptions of the homeless in the community. Many mentioned a woman who pulled a cart or suitcase.

When Saparito and I described all our conversations, Kastigar thought we might have identified one or two new individuals for the database.

When I got home, I was cold and tired. Not as cold as someone who might be living in a tent, below an overpass, or in a car.

On Feb. 9, volunteers gathered to debrief and look at photos taken on this year's count.

New encampments were discovered, including a small log "house." An ongoing location appeared to have enlarged to seven different rooms and more developed into a “home.”

Seeing dolls and other toys in these photos is disturbing. It is very hard to realize that a child could be living in these conditions.

Kastigar said she was still going through the numbers and didn't have the final totals. However she said it seems as though the number of chronically homeless people in St. Charles County is stable.

The number of people living "doubled-up" has skyrocketed and the number of families, in particular two-parent families, living in hotels has also increased.

“I’m still going through all the numbers,” Kastigar said. “So I don’t have final totals yet. But I can tell you what the trends appear to be.”

It is noteworthy that the doubled-up number is not included in the “official” homeless count. Kastigar keeps tabs on this number separately.

When one family moves into another family's home it puts a roof over their head. Yet if it was to be a temporary situation and a year later a house is still home to two families of five, those 10 people may find it an emotional and psychological struggle to continue to get along.

“It is a housing crisis,” said Kastigar. 

A video titled “The Hidden Homeless” by Raymond Castile in available for viewing on the Community Council website. It documents a recent Point-In-Time Homeless Count and highlights the work of other agencies addressing the issue of homelessness.

I would encourage anyone able to participate in the Point-In-Time Homeless Count. I especially urge my colleagues in the faith community to participate.

We need to be out there, asking questions and learning from the business people, the police and from our own observation so we have understanding when the people come to our church doors asking for help.

The homeless population with the fewest resources available to them in St. Charles County is single homeless men.

If you want to help immediately, The St. Charles Homeless Alliance is sponsoring a Benefit Concert, with comedian Brother Dre’, jazz trio Three3Central and gospel recording artist Erica Reed on Saturday, February 18, 8-10 p.m. at , next to Lindenwood University. Doors open at 7: 30 p.m. Admission is $15.

Helping the homeless is a matter of faith. That’s how I read it in Matthew 25: 35, 40 “. . . I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes . . .Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.”

The me is Jesus. Jesus makes helping the homeless, the hungry and others personal.

I take that seriously.

Betty macConachie February 14, 2012 at 02:51 PM
My group just donated Saturday. We had a happy hour to gather 30 blankets to Larry Rice downtown St Louis. He said he has over 300 come in each night. Over 2000 homeless in just the StLouis area. We all need to do more. These are families as well as veteran. Was eye opening to even drop these there. So sad when we are so warm and comfortable.
Kemery Baldwin February 14, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Betty, I know those blankets were appreciated and used! Bless you and your group.
Sandy K February 15, 2012 at 06:28 AM
I've seen the lady with the suitcase too. I haven't seen her for at least a month or so. There is also a homeless man who rides a bike and a grocery cart trailing behind him. I haven't seen him for at least the last 30 days. When I see him, I alway get him something to eat. I just wish the last time I got him something to eat that I also sat with him to eat. Next time I will. Last year another couple and I saw him on a very cold night. He had been beaten by a young couple who also stole his money. The other couple and myself paid for him to stay at a local motel for a couple nights and gave him some money for food. He is not a drunk and I've never seen him smoking so if he gets money I feel good that he uses it for his best interest. I do hope these two are safe and sound in a warm place.
Kemery Baldwin February 17, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Sandy K. Thank you for sharing your stories. I am sure the man was very grateful for your kindness to him and your generosity.
andrea March 13, 2013 at 08:49 PM
I am homeless and pregnant and me and my fiance need help. plz some one help us.....call me at 6365414920
Sandy K March 13, 2013 at 09:49 PM
I'm sorry Andrea for your hardship. If you don't have family in the area try calling the following: Crisis Nursery in St. Charles 636-947-0600 Youth in Need in St. Charles 636-946-3771 Catholic Charities in St. Peters 636-498-2273 I hope this helps you. Let us know. God Bless You!

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