Updated 10:12 a.m. Thursday with comments from Peter & Paul's executive director.
Biddle Housing Opportunities Center off North Tucker Boulevard is a hub for homeless services.
An Ohio nonprofit will take over operations of the Biddle Housing Opportunities Center homeless shelter after the city failed to find a good local partner to take it on.
The city approved the arrangement with Homefull
, a Dayton-based homeless services provider, this afternoon. Two St. Louis nonprofits — the St. Patrick Center and Peter & Paul Community Services — have shared management duties since the shelter opened in 2016. But when the city asked for bids to operate Biddle House in the future, neither organization applied.
"We decided not to renew because shelter management is not part of our core mission, which has not changed in 35 years — to provide opportunities for housing, case management services and support services (health, job readiness, employment, etc.) for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless," St. Patrick spokeswoman Kelly Peach told the RFT
in an email.
Peter & Paul's executive director didn't respond to requests for comment. (Update: Executive Director Steven Campbell says the decision was hard and "simply a financial one." The city's $515,000 budget has remained the same since Biddle opened, and with the St. Patrick Center pulling out, Peter & Paul couldn't afford to fill the gap on its own. Campbell says their contract ends July 31, but they've agreed to help with the transition until Homefull takes over in September. Peter & Paul will continue its normal services, including its shelter in Soulard and meals program.
It was not just that the two charities decided to pull out; there also was not much interest from anyone else. The city rejected one other bid before turning to Homefull. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
, which sent a reporter and photographer to Ohio to check out the organization, reported that Homefull had advised the city in the past
Eddie Roth, the city's former director of human services, used to work in Dayton and knew Homefull's operators, the newspaper reported. That connection apparently led to the new arrangement.
The city's Board of Estimate and Apportionment — whose members are the mayor, president of Board of Aldermen and comptroller — signed off on the deal at its monthly meeting this afternoon.
Biddle was designed to be the front door for a network of services, a centralized portal where people could access myriad programs from a wide coalition of charities and city departments. It has a 98-bed overnight shelter for men and daytime services, including meals, for everyone.
The city has adopted a "housing first" strategy to combat homelessness, working to keep people in their own homes or moving them as quickly as possible into long-term housing. The idea is shift away from large emergency shelters, such as the New Life Evangelistic Center run by the Rev. Larry Rice.
Shortly before Biddle opened, the city forced New Life to shut down, a decision that followed years of fighting over building code violations. The behemoth private shelter at 14th and Locust was seen by critics as a dangerous magnet for illicit behavior, while supporters considered it a life-saving alternative to the freezing streets.
The city promised it had the capacity through its own facility, Biddle House, and partner agencies to handle the loss of beds when Rice closed.
But it has, at times, struggled to meet demand
. Churches scrambled to open pop-up shelters in their halls this winter when bitter-cold weather hit and Biddle's beds filled up.
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