Saturday, October 28, 2023

How St. Louis City Staff Could Immediately Raise $440,000 To Support the Homeless

Coming into this winter season, the City of St. Louis's Department of Health is conducting a donation drive for the unhoused. As Behavioral Health Bureau Chief Julie J. Gray mentions, "our focus is to have the City’s employees make donations". 

So let's go ahead and break that down. The typical vision of winter support for the unhoused is having low-income and middle-income folk dropping in unused clothing and a few dollars worth of hygiene supplies. The city "did something" and everyone feels good about themselves. Mission accomplished? 

But, let's really break this down thinking about the entire 3,000+ city employee roster. 

I'll start by pointing out Charles Coyle, Director of Public Safety, makes $206,000. We're out here asking even those at the bottom, those living paycheck to paycheck are barely even surviving, to still donate $5-$10 dollars. Instead, let's note that Charles all by himself could easily chip in $5,000 alone and still be doing quite well. In fact, if every one of the 23 director level roles directly under the Mayor, plus the Mayor themself, chipped in $5,000 annually, we'd have $120,000 per year that could be spent on clothes and hygiene. Every single year. And all the people donating would still be living on $150K / year.

Going even further, we could then ask the next 120 highest-paid city staff, all of whom make over $100K, to chip in $100, that doubles the aid relief package we could assemble to $240,000 annually.

From there, we could also ask the next highest paid 1,000 staff to give just two dollars each. At that point, we've now raised a very meaningful $440,000. And we could do this every single year.

How far does that go to help support the unhoused attempt to survive winter without dying freezing in the street? Pretty dang far I'd say. 

Do we choose to raise a few hundred or few thousand dollars, possibly coming from the poorest staff members (study after study has shown that poor Americans are the country's most charitable demographic)? Or do we ask the city staff, collectively, to raise $440,000 without any economic threat to anyone's well-being?

And yes, onations help from everywhere. But understand that the math on display here could, quite literally, be implemented first thing Monday morning. We could those most in need a few ratty old sweaters, or we could give them $440K in annual support without breaking a sweat. Is the latter plan not what any moral, compassionate society would do?

People literally die on St. Louis streets from the cold every single winter. As advocates point out - "St. Louis has not dedicated any money from its general fund to homeless services in nearly two decades, relying instead on federal funds and putting more pressure on volunteers to fill the gaps."

I mean really, what are we doing? The plan outlines above could happen tomorrow. There is literally nothing a single thing stopping us, collectively, from doing so. Except for the privilege to turn away and have each of the 1,143 well-off individuals dare to say "I won't do so". Not can't do so. They could. Please just ... do this already.  

Post on LinkedIn prompting this article:

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