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Letter: Private sector can help solve the homeless problem

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Tent encampment on St. Louis riverfront

A woman who identified herself as Sophie Kon prepares herself a cup of coffee on Monday, May 2, 2022 from a table of in the middle of tent encampment under the pavilion where the Admiral gambling boat used to be along the St. Louis riverfront. Kon says she's been living in the tent for about a year. The coffee was brought to the encampment by activists trying to help the unhoused. Photo by David Carson,

Regarding "St. Louis workers start removing homeless camps, but fewer than planned" (May 2): I'm with Peter & Paul Community Services, and I believe the crux of the homeless problem is public resistance to any real solution. What is needed is truly affordable housing for very low-income people, coupled with case management and supportive services.

The problem is that an entire category of housing was largely eliminated, with little or no discussion of the long-term impact. The private sector once made a profit providing single room occupancy housing without any government subsidies.

Public policy forced the shutdown of rooming houses and residential hotels over the last 50 years, without any replacement offered to those who depended on them. We need a type of housing that existed throughout history until these last 50 years, and to use tools like tax abatement and increment financing to return the private sector to do the bricks and mortar. We also need the private sector to partner with agencies offering case management and supportive services to meet the chronic needs of this population. 

Thomas B. Burnham • St. Louis  



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