Published in the St. Louis Business Journal, Nov. 18, 2022

Opinion | I believe St. Louis can end homelessness. Here’s how.

Men wait to be taken to the fifth floor, where they can spend the night, at the former New Life Evangelistic Center in February 2015. (Mark Kauzlarich/The New York Times)


We have the opportunity to end homelessness and become a model for the nation. A bold statement I know, but one I firmly believe.

Why am I so confident? Because I have learned of a remarkable approach currently posting impressive results in Dallas and Houston.

In just two years, Dallas has rehoused more than 1,000 homeless and cleared nine encampments. In Houston, homelessness has declined by 60% in three and a half years.

The common element for both metro areas: Mandy Chapman Semple, a homeless advocate and a systems engineer who is also managing partner at Clutch Consulting. My friend Peter Miller, a former St. Louis business executive who now heads the Dallas-based Meadows Foundation, shared her successes with me and funded a St. Louis visit for the two to speak to local leaders from the business, nonprofit, government and philanthropy communities.

Semple’s approach is not another plan. Instead, it helps existing service providers and funders organize themselves in an efficient service delivery system tailored to accommodate the unique structures, circumstances and challenges of each city.

What does that mean exactly?

Semple rationalizes the service network by bringing together all of the principals — nonprofits serving the homeless, charitable funders, business leadership and local government. She then works with these parties to create a collaborative, interconnected, and accountable service system based on established and mutually-understood operating protocols and triage techniques. Metrics track progress. Everyone pulls in the same direction and is focused on two objectives: rehousing the homeless while providing the meaningful and necessary support to help them stay there.

So where do we start in St. Louis? The first step is to identify a nucleus of financial and community leadership committed to bringing Mandy and her expertise to St. Louis. Once here, she will begin by conducting an assessment of the current service and support network. When that is completed, she will present her findings and recommendations.

It would be a wonderful accomplishment if our region could come together and become a beacon for the country on how to address homelessness humanely and as the public health crisis it represents. With Mandy’s insight, guidance and wisdom, I believe it is possible. Will you join me?

By Jay Schaeffer Shields – CEO of Schaeffer Oil and co-founder of Sons & Daughters of Soulard
Nov 18, 2022