As the City of St. Louis begins work on Biddle House, the region's first 24- hour, seven-day a week service facility to support people who are homeless, the Department of Human Services has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a full-time facility manager.
Biddle House, a city-owned building at 1211-19 Tucker, will open as a service center later this summer to bring people who are homeless off the street and move them quickly into stability and permanent housing. The City will hire a Facility Manager and Service Coordinator, a non-profit agency to manage the facility and oversee the services being provided there. The City will continue to own, maintain, manage and secure the facility, while client services will be provided under contract with homeless service agencies.
The issuance of the RFP is the next step of the year-long process in which the 50 homeless service agencies making up the St. Louis City Continuum of Care (CoC), working with peers in St. Louis County, have developed a comprehensive system of coordinated entry and service delivery for people who are homeless.
"The men, women, and children who seek services at Biddle House will find an open door, a hot meal, shelter from the weather, safety and security, and a path toward a better future," Mayor Francis Slay said. "People very rarely choose to be homeless. Most often, there is a set of circumstances that has left someone little opportunity other than the street. Drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, a foreclosure, or even just a fall out with a family member can land someone in dire straights. Biddle House service providers will help straighten out those issues. They will meet people where they are to help move them out of the facility and into stability and permanent housing."
Biddle House service providers will advance national best practices of 'housing first,' a coordinated system of needs assessment, diversion from shelter, and rapid rehousing of individuals and families who are homeless.
Biddle House will provide:
- A Homeless Service Gateway –providing a daytime facility for between 75 and 125 men and women and families who are homeless, for intake and assessment, temporary day shelter and meal service, and required participation and referral to services that move people quickly off the street into stability and housing.
- An overnight shelter with 98 beds for single men, and space available for temporary expansion cots during cold weather overflow nights and other emergency or unexpected influx.
"The selection process will closely involve neighbors, the Continuum of Care and other stakeholders," Human Services Director Eddie Roth said. "The RFP and other key documents, including construction plans, already are online. We expect proposals back in 30 days. They will be posted online, too. Before a selection is made, the applicants will make public presentations in the community in which they will explain in detail their vision and plans for the facility and its operations, including the safety plan, code of conduct for guests, and a 'good neighbor agreement."
Constructed in 1932 as the New Biddle Market, a public marketplace, Biddle House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovation costs are estimated to be $2.5 million, and are being financed through the St. Louis Affordable Housing Commission. More information on Biddle House is available online.
"The City of St. Louis is taking charge and will ensure Biddle House is a good neighbor," Mary Ellen Ponder, Mayor Slay's Chief of Staff, said. "By making the initiative a top priority, and bringing together city agencies, non-profit partners and community stakeholders, we are confident Biddle House will be seen as not just a good, but a great neighbor that has a prompt, visible and lasting impact on street homelessness."
Thomas Harvey, St. Louis City Continuum of Care Chairperson and Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders said, "Opening Biddle House as a home for the Continuum of Care's coordinated entry program represents the culmination of work the 50 agencies serving the homeless have been engaged in collaboration with the City of St. Louis for nearly a year.
"Coordinated entry is not only a best practice called for by homeless advocates, it is also a requirement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the largest funder of programs to prevent and end homelessness. When coordinated entry begins at Biddle House, service providers will for the first time since I have been involved have a centralized place to work on the goal of ending homelessness. Agencies that would otherwise work independently will be able to collaborate and coordinate the care of the homeless, leading to better outcomes.
"While the region ultimately needs more full-time jobs with benefits that pay a living wage as well as broadly available affordable housing and public transportation to permanently end homelessness, coordinated entry at Biddle House gives us the best opportunity to assess, divert, or rehouse people in need. Experts from agencies from around the region will assess the needs of people seeking services, match them with available housing, provide necessary resources to prevent homelessness, and offer emergency shelter to the most vulnerable among us until we're able to get them connected to services and housing."
Downtown STL, Inc. President &CEO Melissa Kelley said, "Downtown residents and business are compassionate and welcoming to people in need. But we also have standards and expectations for agencies that provide services. We expect them to be good neighbors. We will help them to do so. We support a service model that includes high quality facilities and service providers that help people move from the street and into housing."
The process leading to Biddle House began in April, 2015, when Mayor Francis Slay announced:
"It is time to change emergency shelter for people who are homeless in the City of St. Louis. It is not good enough to warehouse people for a night, in substandard conditions, give them a meal, and then send them on their way to fend for themselves until darkness comes again. Without question, providing food and temporary shelter is necessary, and at times, lifesaving. But, it is just as important to spend the time, energy, and other resources to help people who are homeless live a more stable, safe, and dignified life. That means supporting traditional emergency shelters with uniform and centralized intake, rigorous assessment, and case management to shorten stays and connect people to stable transitional and permanent housing as a way to leave life on the streets."
For the past year, the Department of Human Services has set up temporary overnight shelter for up to 125 men at the 12th &Park Recreation Center, added 50 shelter beds for women and families at the Gateway 180 facility, and five shelter beds at St. Patrick Center's night program for women with mental illness.
Office of the Mayor