The City of St. Louis’s Homeless Services Network grew out of a community homeless crisis and legal action brought against the city by the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Inc., on behalf of homeless clients. The mayor of St. Louis responded by appointing an Advisory Homeless Task Force in January 1985, which presented its “Homeless Services Network” plan in August 1985. This plan, and the city's commitment to implement it, became the basis for a court agreement (a consent decree) agreed upon by all parties on November 15, 1985. The court retains jurisdiction over the subject matter and over all parties to enforce the terms of the decree. Compared with past actions of the city, the Services Network is the most comprehensive and integrated effort to deal with homeless needs.
The Homeless Services Network addresses the full spectrum of challenges associated with homelessness including prevention, emergency assistance, stabilization (interim housing and support services), and permanent housing and employment (including follow-up support). It utilizes a series of contracts between the City Department of Human Services and four major private agencies (service providers) to provide "linkage" services for the homeless in 20 operating emergency shelters in the community with 650 beds. Included among linkage services is a central intake and reception center, operated by the Salvation Army, which serves as a computerized clearinghouse to identify and develop basic data on homeless persons, an effort that seeks to use the available beds in the 20 shelters most effectively and to make referrals for support.
A transportation van system, operated by the American Red Cross, transfers homeless persons back and forth to and from shelters, the day care center, and support service locations. A day shelter operated by consolidated neighborhood services provides a safe, sanitary place for women and children during daytime hours when the night shelters are closed. Finally, a transition services center (St. Patrick's Center), operated by Catholic Charities, provides case management, housing, and employment assistance.
The city has committed annual funding of $310,000 in direct municipal appropriations and $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in support of the Homeless Services Network. Private agencies and sources also contribute $619,000 in in-kind services and cash. These funds support a wide scale of activity that encompasses a projected client demand between 4,500 and 5,500 persons.
In the first five months of the Network operation (December, 1985 - April, 1986), the central intake center registered data on 1,589 persons and served 925 persons, many more than the projected 550 - 650 persons estimated to be served for the year. The transportation service to date has provided 8,873 one-way rides. The day care center has provided a location and meal service for 4,123 persons. St. Patrick's transition center (providing services for the Network since January 1986) has placed 33 persons in permanent jobs and 64 persons in permanent housing. It has also provided life training classes and support service referrals. The center serves approximately 100 to 150 mentally ill persons daily in a day shelter program offering a free lunch, shower, counseling and referral, mail service, and telephone access.