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Government, Politics & Issues

New Life wants state to provide building for homeless shelter

Ron Whelan signs the Rev. Larry Rice's petition addressed to the Governor to provide New Life with a building. 04/27/2017 in front of City Hall and Market Street
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio
Ron Whelan signs the Rev. Larry Rice's petition, addressed to Gov. Eric Greitens to provide New Life with a building.

After a long fight with city officials over New Life Evangelistic Center’s homeless shelter, founder, the Rev. Larry Rice is bringing the matter to the state level.

In a letter addressed to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, Rice asks the state to provide a building for the New Life Evangelistic Center to be used as a shelter.

“Governor, whether it is a natural disaster, an economic disaster, or whatever, a disaster which results in a person ending up homeless is a disaster.” – Excerpt from the letter to the governor from the Rev. Larry Rice.

Rice is taking the matter to the governor because he said the city has not given him any help.

“The governor being a Republican and maybe the legislature being Republican, maybe they’ll be able to see this as an opportunity to show that they can be a party of compassion if we are not seeing it by the one party system in the city of St. Louis.”

Even with a change in mayors, Rice does not think he will get any support from the city.

“[Lyda Krewson] already ran on her platform that she wants to put a lock on our doors,” Rice said. “… I just hope that while she’s in that office a miracle will happen and she’ll have a change of heart and recognize that anybody can end up homeless at any time, and she’ll start helping them.”

About 100 people who are homeless signed the petition on Thursday morning in front of City Hall.

About 100 homeless people from St. Louis came to sign Larry Rice's petition asking the state to provide a building in front of City Hall/Market Street. On 04/27/2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

Among them was Melena Johnson. She has been homeless for 10 months and has an infant, she said.

“I knew if his shelter was open, me and my baby would be on the second floor in the family room. I already know this ‘cause he gave me and my children a place to stay.”

Johnson is trying to get into other shelters, she said. The last three days, she has had to sleep outside because there was no room for her and her baby.

“Every time you want to get into a shelter, you have to make a phone call. With Larry you didn’t have to make a phone call. You just walk up to Larry’s door and he’d let you in.”

New Life’s emergency shelter was a “walk-in shelter,” Rice said.

Caryon Kirklind-Nelson is handing the petition to homeless people in front of City Hall. She heard about the event in her church and wanted to help. 04/27/2017 City Hall entrance and Market Street
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

“[People] have to line up at six in the morning if they want a bed at Biddle house,” Rice said. “At our place, if the hospital sent them, we brought them in; if the police sent them, we brought them in; if a woman found herself abused in the middle of the night, we brought her in.”

Rice will deliver the letter including petition personally to the governor’s office on Friday.

People have to have a place to sleep at night, Rice said.

“This is torture. Just when people are down and that’s wrong and cruel as to what they’re doing to the people of St. Louis in the city.”

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