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.
A local church is taking a more low-key approach in its struggle with city officials to set up a homeless camp in St. Louis.
Rev. Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center was arrested last week as he attempted to open a tent city called Integrity Village on a two-acre plot of private land at Vendeventer Ave. north of Interstate 44. City officials cleared the site and condemned the area as a health hazard. But Rice's son, Rev. Chris Rice, says they aren’t giving up.
The city of St. Louis says the 30 remaining residents of three homeless encampments located just north of downtown will have until the end of May to leave the location, or face possible arrest.
"The encampments have attracted a great deal of attention to the problems of homeless persons," said Bill Siedhoff, the city's human services director. "But they are not safe places for people to live, and they are certainly not a long-term answer to the problem."
The 45 people that make their home in three camps north of downtown are invisible to most St. Louisans.
They lived nestled between the floodwall and the train tracks at the foot of the new Mississippi River Bridge with little city interference until January. That’s when a propane heater sparked a fire that torched three tents. Even more attention followed after one resident fatally stabbed another in May, and the city made the decision to clear the location. It's an already difficult task - made even harder by the stubbornly sluggish economy.