Reverend Larry Rice says he is tired of waiting for the city to remove barriers that have surrounded his homeless shelter in downtown St. Louis for the past five weeks.
Sidewalks on both sides of Locust Street in front of New Life Evangelistic Center are blocked off by metal barriers. Bill Seidhoff, the director of the city’s department of human services, said the city placed the barriers there after receiving calls from residents who were concerned about hygiene and safety because of the homeless people who congregate and sleep around the center.
Seidhoff said the barricades are up while the city works on a loitering ordinance.
“If people wanted to sleep on the sidewalk in front of my house there’s not much I could do about it, which seems ridiculous,” Seidhoff said.
“But, in fact, because of the lack of an enforcement tool that’s currently the situation we find ourselves in.”
Reverend Rice said the real issue with the blockades is the effect they’ve had on parking near the center. Bags cover the meters up and down the blocked off sections on Locust Street.
Rice said that since the city has revoked street parking, nearby lots have raised their prices.
“We’re getting into our fall and winter programs where we definitely are going to start distributing weatherization kits and blankets to people that are in the homes,” Rice said.
“They have no place to park. They should not have to pay five dollars to come in for an hour when they could pay a dollar at the meters.”
Rice said a record number of people are visiting the center this fall and raised prices as well as reduced space to park is hurting needy people who drive to the center as well as the volunteers and staff who work there.
Seidhoff said the city will consider removing the barriers completely if the loitering issue does not persist.
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