The Rev. Larry Rice opened his emergency shelter at the New Life Evangelistic Center in 1976 with permission from the city to house 32 people. Back then, the area around his building at 1411 Locust was mostly factories and warehouses for St. Louis’ garment district.
Many of those buildings are now loft apartments with bars and restaurants on the first floor, and Rice admits to regularly sheltering as many as 300 people a night.
An effort by a group of downtown St. Louis residents to shutter the New Life Evangelistic Center got underway on Tuesday in front of the city's Board of Public Service.
It was the first of what will be several days of testimony on whether the homeless shelter run by the Rev. Larry Rice is a detriment to the surrounding neighborhood. The quasi-judicial proceeding was prompted by a petition from 134 people who own property within a prescribed radius of the shelter, which is at the corner of 14th and Locust streets.
An advocate for the homeless is pressing for Belleville voters to decide whether he can convert the city's former YMCA building into a shelter. The Rev. Larry Rice on Monday submitted a 790-signature petition to the St. Clair County Clerk's Office to force the ballot measure calling for the city to sell the property to his New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis for $1.
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.
St. Louis County executive Charlie Dooley is pledging to open an emergency homeless shelter in the county by the end of the year.
Dooley announced the shift in policy in a series of Tweets on Friday. The county will also be looking for agencies to operate transitional housing - which is a stepping stone between a shelter and a permanent residence - and will host a homeless summit in October.
Rev. Larry Rice directed about 20 homeless persons to a mall in Fairview Heights on Tuesday to underscore the lack of shelters in St. Clair County.
Rice says many homeless persons seeking refuge from the triple-digit temperatures wind up across the river at his shelter downtown.
“Belleville represents what we see in so many municipalities," Rice said. "Where people just aren’t dealing with the homeless. They’re closing shelters. We saw a shelter close here – the Salvation Army – in 2009. They made no other arrangements for the homeless.”
Reverend Larry Rice is suing the city of St. Louis and Public Safety Director Eddie Roth for condemning a homeless camp he tried to set up last month near Interstate 44.
The federal lawsuit filed Friday claims Roth failed to give a hearing prior to closing down the vacant lot on Vandeventer and interfered the group’s religious freedom.
“They went and condemned that vacant ground," Rice said. "And in a matter of hours they told us we had to get off the property and if we didn’t that we’d be arrested – of which I was arrested. And there was no violation.”
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.