POSITION STATEMENT ON NLEC PETITION The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis
A group of Downtown residents has submitted a petition to the City of St. Louis and its Board of Public Service, which alleges that the New Life Evangelistic Center
is being operated in a manner that is detrimental to its neighbors and to Downtown generally. The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis supports the petition. Homelessness is a factor in every major city across the country and, primarily, in the urban core. The Partnership, and many individual board members have been very involved with the issue of homelessness for years, working closely with the Mayor and service providers to offer comprehensive and supportive services. Every year, people in our region become homeless due to financial catastrophe or personal tragedy. Many of those people come to Downtown St. Louis because of the concentration of services, and we are pleased and inspired by the multiple providers who are able to help the vast majority of those people get back on their feet and recover from the massive dislocation homelessness represents. While the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis continues to recognize the importance of compassionate aid to the chronically homeless in our community, we are focused on the whole of Downtown, including the experience for residents, visitors, employees and business owners. Downtown efforts to address homelessness must follow best practices in creating a continuum of care and in seeking to mitigate behaviors that have a detrimental effect on the community. We agree with the petitioners that conduct detrimental to the neighborhood includes loitering, drinking in public, lewd and indecent behavior, commission of crimes, sale or use of illegal drugs, harassing and intimidating behavior, excessive noise and street and sidewalk congestion. There are identified best practices, as well as documented tactics, for addressing the problems of those experiencing homelessness while balancing the impact on the surrounding community. Among those best practices, it is widely recognized that daytime programming helps to prevent nuisance behavior; however, NLEC has been lacking in its commitment to such programming. As a result, the guests of NLEC released from the facility in the morning have continued to engage in nuisance behaviors. The Partnership has worked closely with our resident council, which provides insight, feedback, suggestions, and potential solutions for addressing aspects of this issue that affect those who live Downtown. The primary concerns regarding the NLEC
s current model are as follows:
NLEC is not addressing the core cause of homelessness in a manner that assists their clients in changing their situation. Chronic homelessness is typically a symptom of deeper issues such as substance abuse or mental illness. Programs that do not address the underlying issues, and solely provide overnight shelter, perpetuate the cycle of chronic homelessness.
NLEC has documented sex-offenders citing their facility as their place of residence, which is located across the street from a school and in close proximity to a park.
Allowing the mentally ill, or substance-dependent, to sleep at NLEC and then sending them out into busy streets with no food, with no place to go to the bathroom and without the tools to even care for themselves, is detrimental to the homeless and to the neighborhood.
NLEC has a license for 25 beds and 32 people, but NLEC routinely takes in 200-300 people per night, without adequate fire protection, without adequate egress and without adequate supervision. Reports of violence and abuse, sexual and otherwise, are common. Our community is fortunate that Downtown, and its constellation of caring service providers, are affording some assistance in addressing the myriad of issues associated with homelessness; however, NLEC has not demonstrated a real