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Opinion: Larry Rice Should Not Reopen Homeless Shelter

October 17, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Homeless Comments Off on Opinion: Larry Rice Should Not Reopen Homeless Shelter

As a resident of the City of St. Louis for 28+ years I’ve interacted with homeless persons on many occasions, mostly in the last 11 years (as of next month) I’ve lived downtown. I’ve talked to many, bought beverages/food for some, and two have been to my loft for a shower and meal.

The city’s Board of Adjustment ruled NLEC is a nuisance, and two court rulings since have confirmed the city acted properly.

I’m no social worker, but this is a subject that has held my interest for a very long time. There are five main causes of homelessness:

When Housing is Out of Reach More than at any other time, there is a lack of housing that low income people can afford. Without housing options, people face eviction, instability and homelessness. Income and Housing Affordability Low income households often do not earn enough to pay for food, clothing, transportation and a place they can call home. Connecting Homelessness and Health Health and homelessness are inextricably linked. Health problems can cause a person’s homelessness as well as be exacerbated by the experience. Housing is key to addressing the health needs of people experiencing homelessness. Escaping Violence Many survivors of domestic violence become homeless when leaving an abusive relationship. Impact of Racial Disparities Most minority groups in the United States experience homelessness at higher rates than Whites, and therefore make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population.

For years shelters required people to not be under the influence of alcohol or other substances to receive any services. Faith-based shelters often also required participation in their worship activities. This meant many would be turned away or they wouldn’t even bother going. It’s nearly impossible for those with mental health issues or addictions to address those without a safe place to sleep at night.

Aware of how service providers cobbled together a system that unintentionally victimized the people it aimed to help, Sam Tsemberis, PhD, in the 1990s developed a model known as Housing First. Its goal is to quickly provide safe, affordable, permanent housing quickly to people who are experiencing homelessness, particularly, although not solely, those with chronic homelessness and co-occurring conditions such as mental illness or substance use disorders. Housing First programs require few or no preconditions, such as participation in mental health or substance use disorder treatment, from the people they serve. In addition to permanent housing, Housing First programs provide a wide range of wraparound services that are readily available to participants and offered assertively, but not required. Studies show that that when people experiencing homelessness are given safe, stable, affordable housing, they are better able to address other problems and needs in their lives, such as substance use disorders and mental illness. As a result, homelessness, frequent use of hospital emergency departments, and psychiatric hospitalizations are reduced. (Social Work Today)

Of course, Housing First doesn’t work for everyone, but expecting those with substance abuse problems to suddenly stop while living on the streets is unrealistic.  Sorry, prayer won’t change their behavior on the streets.

Larry Rice doesn’t want the homeless housed so they can get treatment and their lives in order. He counts on people donating to help the cause. That’s his business model. From what I gather, he personally lives modestly — good. So do many of the people sending him money.

Last year Rice sold his TV station, channel 24, for a tidy sum:

According to filings with the Federal Communication Commission, TV-49 Inc. will pay $3.75 million to buy the independent station from Rice’s nonprofit New Life Evangelistic Center Inc. The station has broadcast secular programming, liberally interspersed with Rice’s religious sermons and calls to social activism, since it first hit the airwaves on Sept. 12, 1982. The sale does not include Rice’s property at 1411 Locust Street in downtown St. Louis — a building that had been used as a homeless shelter for years until it was closed in April by St. Louis city officials. (Post-Dispatch)

KNLC’s is now part of Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, channel 24.1 is the new MeTV affiliate.  Their 24.2 does still broadcast Rice’s religious programming.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Larry Rice should be allowed to reopen 1411 Locust as a day shelter for the homeless.

  • Strongly agree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Agree: 2 [4.88%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [4.88%]
  • Disagree: 8 [19.51%]
  • Strongly disagree: 20 [48.78%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Back to the two previously homeless individuals that have been in my loft. The first, ‘FC’, ceased being homeless 10 years ago today. That’s the day I let him begin staying in my previous residence — a corner storefront building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. This arrangement helped both of us — a safe place for him and someone there to keep the property safe from vandals/thieves. FC lived there for a couple of years — the new owners allowed him to stay a while after I sold it.  He’s since gotten married, he and his wife bought a home together a few years ago.

FC is older than I am, but the other, DT, is roughly half my age. In 2016 I helped him get out of St. Louis so he could return to his family in Washington state. Both made some bad decisions in life, both were addicted to narcotics.

Remember, many homeless receive VA or disability income, work, etc. There are people on the streets that look homeless, their “job” is to take advantage of those who are homeless. It’s important to keep the homeless separated from those who prey on them. That includes the religious.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sidewalk Cleaning Is Important, Yet Not All Do It

October 15, 2018 Downtown, Featured Comments Off on Sidewalk Cleaning Is Important, Yet Not All Do It

For nearly fourteen years now I’ve posted about many topics, often minor & obscure in nature. The little things, however, can also be important. First impressions can be lasting.

Our convention center entrance on Washington Ave is at 8th Street.

Often conventioneers stay across the street in the Marriott St. Louis Grand hotel. They power wash their sidewalk along Washington Ave weekly. I know because I see them doing it on my way to the YMCA. Also, I asked the last worker I saw how often it’s done.

Looking West from 8th, you can see the sidewalk is wet from just being cleaned
Equipment used to power wash the sidewalk.

It always looks great, they do a wonderful job! I can’t say the same about the other side of 8th.

Immediately East of 8th the sidewalk is always dirty, even after a hard rain.
Close to the building you see bird waste that has been there for at least months.
Around the corner, along 8th, it’s worse.

This is part of the entire block controlled by US Bank. Visitors to our convention center likely see this filth. While the Marriott to the West of 8th does an excellent job, US Bank fails at keeping their sidewalks presentable.

More examples.

The Ely Walker lofts, 1520 Washington, frequently power washes their sidewalk
The sidewalk in front of Roberts Galerie, 1224 Washington, is always nasty.

Maybe US Bank and others rely solely on the Downtown Clean Team:

Downtown STL Inc. has established a Clean Team in an effort to contribute to the beautification of the Community Improvement District (CID), through an aggressive sidewalk and street level cleaning program.

Clean Team members, dressed in purple and khaki, walk the streets of Downtown, St. Louis, to make sure we maintain a clean and inviting appearance to all visitors.

Some of the duties the Clean Team may encounter are: debris clean up on streets and sidewalks; graffiti and handbill removal from first floor buildings; power washing sidewalks; clean up after special events (Parades, Sporting Events, Festivals, etc.); and also cleaning and maintaining the Old Post Office Plaza and Downtown Bike Station. (Downtown Clean Team)

They also do a great job, I see them frequently. Maybe building managers/owners need to request power washing if they don’t want to do it themselves like others do? I’ll contact them myself to see if they can help out where they’re so desperately needed.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Larry Rice Be Allowed To Reopen His Homeless Shelter?

October 14, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Homeless, NLEC, Religion, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Larry Rice Be Allowed To Reopen His Homeless Shelter?
Please vote below

Last month a 2nd court ruled against Larry Rice and his downtown homeless shelter:

The Missouri Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling that found the city of St. Louis acted properly when it shut down the New Life Evangelistic Center homeless mission in April of 2017.

The center’s director, the Reverend Larry Rice says, it’s hard to re-open when he can’t get petition signatures from neighbors in the locked loft next door.

“What’s really made this difficult is the people they want us to get signatures from are the people that put in the petition in order to stop us from doing the shelter,” Rice said, “At the same time, we’re willing to do our individual appeal to each person that lives in the loft next door at 15th and Locust, the management of those lofts refused to give us access.”

Rice says he may seek a court order granting him access to the building to talk to knock on doors of residents.

Also, he plans to appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court and argue that his homeless shelter is a “local church” and has a Consitutional right to stay open to serve its congregation–the homeless. (KMOX)

Today’s non-scientific poll is about Larry Rice and his former shelter.

Today’s poll closes at 8pm tonight. The usual number of votes is around 28-32 so if there’s an effort to influence the outcome it’ll be very obvious. My thoughts on Wednesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should We Invest In Expansion of Our Convention Center Complex?

October 7, 2018 Downtown, Economy, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should We Invest In Expansion of Our Convention Center Complex?
Please vote below

Last week a plan to expand our convention center, aka America’s Center, was unveiled by Convention & Visitors Commission President Kitty Ratcliffe, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger:

The expansion comes as some downtown restaurateurs and hoteliers complain that their businesses have taken a hit from fewer conventions. The CVC said last month that hotel room night bookings associated with America’s Center were down 30 percent year-to-date, to 230,554 from 327,578 in 2017.

Several big conventions, such as the O’Reilly Auto Parts and FIRST Robotics, did not return this year because they had outgrown America’s Center’s facilities. Ratcliffe said that some national associations, which book several years in advance, had removed St. Louis from consideration after the unrest that began in Ferguson in 2014, and that those decisions were starting to have an effect this year.

Ratcliffe has long argued that upgraded facilities were needed to compete for conventions in cities such as Nashville, Tenn., and Indianapolis, which have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to revamp their tourism infrastructure. She said getting the two regional leaders on board was key to the project’s success. (Post-Dispatch)

Here’s a 3-minute promotional video:

However, not everyone is on board with the expansion. Are you?

This poll will close at 8pm tonight. On Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts and the non-scientific results.

— Steve Patterson

 

Alley Retail Can Work…In The Right Conditions

September 24, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Retail Comments Off on Alley Retail Can Work…In The Right Conditions

Alleys are one thing that attracted me to St. Louis in 1990, we didn’t have them in the 1960s suburban subdivision where I grew up in Oklahoma City. Interestingly, my grandparents each had alleys behind their homes in the small Western Oklahoma towns of Weatherford & Clinton. I spent a lot of time in the alleys behind their houses. Everywhere I’ve lived in St. Louis has had an alley, though for the last decade the alley has technically been St. Charles Street.

In April 2012 I posted about the streets that are really alleys parallel to Washington Ave.; St. Charles Street to the South & Lucas Ave to the North.  A year later New Brewery Improves Alley-Like Lucas Ave.

A recent “Where am I?” photo on Facebook raised interesting issues about alleys, and led me to ban someone from commenting on the page. Let me explain.

I posted the photo to the right on Facebook (blog’s cover image) with the caption “Where am I?” There were right & wrong guesses as to the location — it’s off of Locust St. between 10th-11th. One of the comments was “A sketchy alley about to get mugged by a homeless guy with a shank.  Also next to the Urban Shark.” Yes, Urban Shark is attached to the Bike Station on the left. No, not at any risk of getting mugged, but many think that way about alleys.

One person commented we need to turn alleys into pedestrian-focused retail like other cities have done, citing San Francisco & New Orleans. I recall experiencing one in Vancouver years ago — great space. However, I replied that retailing has struggled downtown even on well-populated streets like Washington Ave. Later I asked him to name just one alley downtown that would make a good candidate for retail. He, we’ll call him GB, said I was bashing St. Louis and he’s seen it work well in other cities. I’ll post more on our interaction in the future, right now I want to stick to GB’s assertion we should enliven our alleys.

Our alleys, like in many cities, were planned as ways to keep unsightly business like trash disposal out of view from primary streets. Also, most of downtown’s alleys have been privatized. Certainly those who own to the rights to formerly public alleys could try to market an alley as a pedestrian-friendly retail & restaurant hub, though ownership is often split down the middle between property owners on each side.

Yes, this has worked well in other cities. So why not downtown St. Louis? First, this has been used in areas lacking vacant street-facing retail spaces.  When retail vacancy is near zero rents go up. By expanding into alleys building owners can make retail spaces in unused/unleased portions of buildings. The rents received isn’t what they get out front but it helps the bottom line. Retailers get spaces that are more affordable in their business model.

If we look at the immediate area around the alley I posted we can see lots of available storefront space. Lots.

The corner space on the building to the East is vacant. Same for the corner space on the building to the West.
Diagonally across 10th & Locust from the above, the corner of The Syndicate remains vacant.
Stefano’s former space at 504 N 10th has been vacant for 3+ years.

The South side of Washington Ave between 10th & 11th recent became fully occupied, but the North side has lots of vacancies.

The Dorsa building was renovated more than a decade ago but ground floor retail remains vacant.
The other storefront in the Dorsa is also vacant. Years ago the St. Louis convention people made the windows look nice at least.
Two months from now will mark 3 years since The Dubliner closed, the space remains vacant.
One bright spot is someone will soon be reopening Bella’s Frozen Yogurt at 1021 Washington Ave. Yay! Click the image to open their Facebook page in a new tab.

I’ve tried to think of an alley in Downtown or Downtown West that might be a good candidate. Laclede’s Landing — can’t think of one, North of the Arch/Ead’s Bridge, has done ok with an alley or two to gain access to buildings. The best local example I can think of is the Maryland Plaza alley in the Central West End.

The property owner(s) did a great job welcoming you to the back of the buildings.
A restaurant patio occupies the West end of the “alley” behind the buildings. This photo was taken on a hot Thursday afternoon, I’d imagine it’s hard to get a table here at certain times.
Looking East toward York Ave., we see a living wall to disguise the parking garage on the right.
Approaching York Ave.

This example was never a public service alley, but it does show how a small sliver of property behind a building can become an asset rather than a liability. Former service alleys can be given this same treatment, the results are often amazing.

Still doesn’t make it a good idea for downtown St. Louis. It might, if you can think of the right location.

— Steve Patterson

 

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