Rice unveils plans for new homeless encampment

May 15, 2012

Homeless St. Louisans displaced from three riverfront camps north of downtown will now have a new place to pitch their tents.

The Rev. Larry Rice yesterday unveiled his plans for "Integrity Village," which will be established today on two privately-owned acres near Interstate 44 and Vandeventer. Rice says the camp will be Christian-based and drug-free.

City officials say they won't permit this newest camp - but Rice says he'll be protected by the First Amendment.

"We believe that this is part of our function of worship," Rice said. "We are going to continue to do what we feel Jesus has told us to do. I believe this is what God wants me to do, and I have no other recourse but to do it."

The city isn't the only opponent to the new arrangement. Neighbors are concerned about safety and public health.

"People here aren't against the homeless by any means," said Stephanie Co, who lives down the street. "One of the first responses was, 'I don't think this is an appropriate place for it.' But we can see what other alternatives there are, or even if there's a better place for an encampment like this. Having a lack of support from the neighborhood I think is a conflict from the start."

Rice will lease the lot from its owner, Middleton Carouthers,  for a year. Carouthers told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Rice's encampment is better than leaving the site vacant.