Riverfront homeless tent city endures during coronavirus outbreak

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — A hidden group of homeless people rides out the pandemic on the shores of the St. Louis riverfront.

On the banks of the Mississippi River, north of downtown, there is a tent city of the homeless. It's about 15 tents, with campfires and the American flag waving in the sky.

What are the homeless doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst themselves?

"The best thing to do is stay clean, stay hydrated," a shirtless Lloyd Robinson told KMOX's Kevin Killeen. "There's water in the river, so that's how I bathe."

Does he hear any of his fellow campers coughing?

"Not anything more than a smoker's cough," he replied.

Another resident of the camp is Jennifer Brainard, originally from Alton, Illinois. She describes what life is like being homeless in the COVID-19 Era.

"Day-to-day, it's pretty interesting. There's not many people out in society (right now), so as someone that's homeless, I can go and use the porta-potty up at the Dome (at America's Center) and wash my hair outside once a week."

NEW HOMELESS?

With fewer and fewer people working, could start to see a new homeless population?

As the pandemic goes on, Mayor Lyda Krewson is concerned more people will become homeless. That spurred plans to use the old Sisters of the Poor building as a temporary homeless shelter.

"We're trying to make sure we work with landlords and work with folks to prevent them from becoming homeless," she told KMOX. "The prevention is just as important as the emergency shelter we're trying to provide now."

There is a court order in effect until April 19th, prohibiting evictions in St. Louis City. Krewson says it's much better to keep people where they are.

"(It's better) than it is to actually let them get un-housed, then we have to try and get them housed again. It's a complex matrix here."

Mayor Krewson expects to go back for an extension on the Court order halting evictions.

In the meantime, she hopes the CARES Act, passed by Congress, will provide some temporary relief for the unemployed.

Maria Keena contributed to this report.
© 2020 KMOX (Entercom). All rights reserved.