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Post Dispatch
Psychiatrist withdraws plan to open halfway house in south St. Louis
January 28, 2016
By Jesse Bogan

2639 Miami Avenue, in south St. Louis

2639 Miami Avenue, in south St. Louis

ST. LOUIS • A psychiatrist who wanted to open a federal halfway house in south St. Louis said he withdrew his proposal after being served a tough lesson.

“I have learned one thing about trying to develop a large business,” said Dr. Junaid Syed. “The next time I am going to do business, I am going to do it in the county.”

Syed wanted to build a 161-bed halfway house, the largest of its kind in the region, in an unused wing of St. Alexius Hospital West Campus, 2639 Miami Avenue.

Syed, chairman of psychiatry at St. Alexius, applied for the contract last summer through his business, Xcell Prison Health.

He said the city wouldn’t approve permits and the community wouldn’t support the project.

“The city is not helping me, nobody is helping me,” said Syed.

He blamed the local alderman and a developer for leading the opposition.

Alderman Cara Spencer, of the 20th Ward, who represents the area near Gravois Park, has for months said Syed wasn’t doing any community outreach about the project.

On Thursday, Spencer said she strongly disagreed with Syed’s view of the events.

“The city, me and others did a lot of work with Dr. Syed and the hospital,” she said. “If he wants to run a business with no community involvement then maybe the county is the place for him.”

When Syed hosted his first community meeting Jan. 5, near Cherokee Street, it didn’t go well for him.

“They were not even listening to the proposal,” Syed said. “They came to disrupt the meeting, and they did.”

There are currently two halfway houses in St. Louis that work with inmates leaving federal prison. Missouri Goodwill Industries houses about 25 women at 18th and Locust streets. Dismas House of St. Louis, an unmarked building on Cote Brillante Avenue near Kingshighway, has about 140 beds.

Dismas House holds the contract Syed was seeking.