With the recent news of the release of the Close the Workhouse campaign’s 2.0 report, City Resolution 205, and growing public official support, I wanted to voice why this needs to happen and share my first-hand account.
The first time I was in the Workhouse was in 1992, and the last time I was in the Workhouse was in 2017. The core issue for me was mental health and lack of resources. My mom was killed when I turned 12. My dad was killed when I turned 13. I didn’t have the resources to deal with the loss of my parents. Their deaths sent me to the streets to survive.
It's important to question what Mayor Krewson is saying about the Workhouse because it is not accurate based on what people on the inside have been experiencing.
For years, the Workhouse has harmed people in ways that can’t be changed. The Workhouse is a place of great uncertainty for the people there. You don’t know how long you’re going to be there or when your next court date will be.
Do you know what happens in the Workhouse when it rains? Rats, bugs, spiders come out. The mold gets worse. You don’t know if you’ll have access to medical care. The first thing that happens when you go in there is you lose hope.
On and off for two decades, I have survived the Workhouse and now work as a canvasser for Action St. Louis to close the Workhouse. I have been canvassing since June. From canvassing I know that neighborhoods in St. Louis overwhelmingly support shutting the Workhouse down.
I think it’s important to understand what leads people to be locked up in the Workhouse in the first place. A lot of people want to do right, but they don’t have the option or opportunity to do so. When you back someone who is a scared into a corner, you’re asking for a fight. That’s what has been happening to people in St. Louis. A lot of people want to do right but they have been backed into a corner.
They just need help. People need more resources, especially mental health resources. If we close the Workhouse we could use that $16 million dollars to give people resources.
In conclusion, I want people to read the “Close the Workhouse Report 2.0” and check out the resolution because this is a moment for St. Louis to really do the right thing and close the Workhouse.
Callion Barnes is a St. Louis resident, member of Close the Workhouse and canvasser with Action St. Louis.