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Sunday Poll: Thoughts on the city calling Larry Rice’s NLEC a “nuisance”?

December 28, 2014 Downtown, Featured, Homeless, NLEC, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll 8 Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Tuesday afternoon the city’s Board of Adjustment, after of 12+ months of hearings on a citizen petition, concluded Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) was a nuisance:

A city board ruled Tuesday that Rev. Larry Rice’s homeless shelter downtown is a nuisance and will be closed effective May 12, 2015, unless he complies with city terms.

Rice’s occupancy permit allows him to have a maximum of 32 beds. Many nights, Rice allows upwards of 300 people to stay in the shelter. (stltoday.com)

A perfect subject for the final poll of 2014: Thoughts on the city calling Larry Rice’s NLEC a “nuisance”? The poll is in the right sidebar, vote until 8pm.

I have thoughts on this, but I’ll save my views for Tuesday when I post the results.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. Kate says:

    I’m not an expert on NLEC and most of what I know about the situation comes from the St. Louis Magazine feature published about a year ago. There was no voting option for my opinion, which is that I think NLEC needs either serious reforms (like being up to code and having actual staff there at night- if I remember correctly, the magazine said they only security at night are homeless people volunteering through Larry’s programs) if they want to continue to house large amounts of people. Or they need to be limited to 32. I think helping the homeless is commendable, but it’s a shame that Larry isn’t more amenable to working with the neighborhood and City and it’s come to this. I have the utmost respect for faith-based programs IF they incorporate known best practices for dealing with things like drug use, security, and mental illness, but Larry does not and thus actually enables the dealers and users to continue. However, if STL Mag is correct, NLEC fills a necessary niche of providing a large amount beds that are available on an as-needed basis without social worker referrals, needing to enter some kind of program, or needing to be a woman or have a child. I’d feel better about the ruling if I knew that other shelters had the capacity and resources to serve the people that NLEC will be turning away.

    • JZ71 says:

      I agree. There are four major components to the discussion, NIMBY, supply and demand, emergency versus ongoing shelter and the underlying causes of homelessness. Most people ARE compassionate, and most people don’t want to see a homeless person die because of a lack of shelter, but many also don’t want to “see” them on a daily basis. Second, there’s real challenge with supply and demand. It’s pretty common knowledge that many suburban and rural cities don’t have any real resources in place to deal with the situation, other than to transfer the people into the city. We can certainly provide more resources in the city, but will there ever be “enough”? Or, should we focus more on dispersing services to places like Ferguson, Ballwin and Arnold? Many cities (elsewhere in the country) have contingency plans for “emergency” (non-permanent) shelters for periods of extreme weather, I haven’t seen many here: http://denver.cbslocal.com/2014/11/12/salvation-army-partners-with-city-to-set-up-emergency-shelters-for-homeless-women/ . Most people are compassionate enough to not want to see somone freeze to death, but that compassion quickly dissipates when the only “issues” are wet or heat.

      Finally, we need to take a hard look at the underlying causes of homelessness. The three groups I see repeated, and not exclusively, are financial crises (job loss, divorce), drug and alcohol abuse and addiction (legal and illegal) and mental illness. The first group is seen as the easiest to “solve”, and thus elicits the most sympathy. There appears to be a real endpoint, not an expectation of ongoing services. The other two groups elicit much less symapthy, since there appears to be no potential endpoint. Your statement that the “NLEC fills a necessary niche of providing a large amount beds that are available on an as-needed basis without social worker referrals” is problematic for many taxpayers who want to see value received for their money being spent on service delivery. Why should I work hard, bust my butt, and pay taxes just so some bum can have a free bed over his (or her) head? On a nightly basis?! Many mental illnesses can be controlled with medication, but many people with a mental illness choose not to take their meds. Chemical addiction is (was?) a choice, as is staying clean and sober. I have no problem throwing money at a problem that can be “fixed”; I have a huge problem with being an enabler. Finding and KEEPING a job is huge part of solving this equation, while poor choices can (and should) have unpleasant consequences.

      • backprop says:

        I’m confused at your statement about being “problematic for many taxpayers who want to see value received for their money…” in response to Steve’s assertion that NLEC fills a necessary niche. What tax money is going to the NLEC shelter?

        • JZ71 says:

          My assumption is that if the NLEC is shut down, the burden of housing the homeless will fall, increasingly, on the taxpayers. I’m also a big believer in supply and demand, and that the city will never, ever, be able to provide enough homeless services, as long as surronding areas choose to provide little or nothing. As long as the city tolerates homeless encampments, allows non-profits to concentrate the delivery of services to homeless clients in specific, limited areas and/or provides direct government services to homeless transients, we’ll continue to see increasing numbers of homeless, especially those with mental illness or drug dependency issues, migrating here. Cities, elsewhere, that do provide extensive services, continue to be magnets for people from much wider areas, and I don’t want to see St. Louis on that list: http://list25.com/25-cities-extremely-high-homeless-populations/

          • I don’t see Larry Rice shutting down and walking away, this won’t be over in May.

            However, I like the idea of other jurisdictions having to wonder what they’ll do with their homeless if NLEC no longer exists.

  2. Mark says:

    No question that the NLEC is a major nuisance. The downtown area is not creating a large population of homeless people, the vast majority that use the NLEC come from somewhere else and are simply attracted to a free meal and an occasional bed. The homeless who utilize the NLEC are in some cases mentally ill, or have criminal histories and represent a danger to others. Having the NLEC Is little different then having a crack den next door, both serve to attract large populations of single men who can not be trusted around your family. Now that a second generation of Rice’s have entered the family business, it is difficult to make a case that the NLEC is anything but a business as it does little if anything to actually help people out of being homeless.
    St. Louis has a large homeless problem mainly because the NLEC exists. Most of the homeless would be better served within their own communities where presumably they have relatives or at least know people in the community. In order for the city to continue to succeed, downtown must become a place that is attractive to both residents and to businesses, nether of which are served by a large homeless population that is being attracted to the area with little for them other then a meal or occasional bed. For those who believe that the NLEC is actually providing a service, I invite you to visit the Central Library which is almost always full of homeless people biding time at any available table. And then ask yourself would you feel comfortable having your children visit this library? Or observe the large number of homeless men lying on the street from the NLEC within less than a 100 feet of a public school.
    The city has enough problems then to act as a magnet for other communities’ unwanted homeless. The time has come to end this problem once and for all.

    • Sgt Stadanko says:

      I was always surprised when I spoke to homeless that came from other communities and cities because of NLEC. I am surprised (the so-called) Reverend Larry Rice doesn’t erect a statue of himself in a “Statute of Liberty pose” outside his Roach Motel…bring us your homeless, insane, drug addicts, sex offenders, alcoholics… we have just the place for you…downtown St Louis. Let’s create a nuisance for the good, hardworking people that are paying the taxes so you have a clean sidewalk to throw garbage on, sleep, urinate & defecate. Thanks, Sarge

  3. Sgt Stadanko says:

    “nuisance” is putting it mildly. And I get hate mail for calling them “human cockroaches”.

    This is what some of Larry Rice’s regulars do after they have sucked up enough air and ready to find a new slab of sidewalk (this is less than 1 block from where I live)


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