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First look inside St. Louis’ tiny house village for unhoused community

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    ST. LOUIS, MO (KMOV) — As the snow falls and the temperatures drop, Lloyd Covington III is thankful for a roof over his head even if it’s just a few square feet.

“It’s very heartwarming. I understand what it feels like to be a big kid now,’ said Covington.

He’s one of the first residents of the City of St. Louis’ new tiny house village, a temporary housing program. Located off Jefferson Avenue just north of downtown, the tiny house village can hold 50 people. So far, they have 31 residents. It’s funded with an initial investment of $600,000 from the federal CARES Act. The city has a 29-month lease on the property.

There are single and double homes. They have heating and AC, plus a bed and desk. The property offers showers, restrooms, laundry, three meals a day and 24-hour access to caseworkers. The heat is the biggest thing for many of the residents as the temperatures drop.

“It’d be horrible to be out on the street on a day like this,” said Andy, who did not want to share his last name. He and his wife moved in last week. He’s been homeless for around six months.

“I got sick, had a bad infection in my leg, lost my job and a kind of snow ball effect from there,” he said. There are hundreds of similar stories. Amy Bickford is the program director for the city’s homeless services.

“At any given moment there’s at least 200-500 people on the streets,” said Bickford.

The city has says capacity at their shelters has been reduced due to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing. Encampments have popped up around town including dozens of tents in the parking lot next to America Center. Bickford says if people are concerned about that, then they should want to see the tiny village succeed.

“If they are concerned about the eye sore of homelessness in their backyard or in downtown, this should be concerning for them. This should be something they should invest in. This is something they should want to be successful,” she said.

And they’re already seeing success. The tiny house program is temporary, meant to be transitional for three to six months to help residents find permanent housing. They have already placed two people into their own apartments.

Lloyd Covington had a job interview thanks to his caseworker and he’s hopeful it’s the start to getting his own place. To move into the tiny house village, individuals must be referred by a caseworker and they must be able to demonstrate that they want to find permanent housing. Click here to learn more about the services offered by the city for the unhoused community.

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