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Poll: Do You Support Giving the Chronically Homeless Apartments?

A week ago 60 Minutes did an interesting story on the homeless:

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Giving apartments to homeless people who’ve been on the streets for years before they’ve received treatment for drug or alcohol problems or mental illness may not sound like a wise idea. But that’s what’s being done in cities across America in an approach that targets those who’ve been homeless the longest and are believed to be at greatest risk of dying, especially with all of this cold weather.

They’re people who once might have been viewed as unreachable. But cities and counties affiliated with a movement known as the 100,000 Homes Campaign have so far managed to get 80,000 of them off the streets. Local governments and non-profit groups do most of the work. The money comes mostly from existing federal programs and private donations, and there’s evidence that this approach saves taxpayers money. (100,000 Homes: Housing the homeless saves money?)

Related stories:

St. Louis has been setting up apartments for the chronically homeless for a while for a while now, I’ve been a skeptic but I’m slowly seeing the value. I’ll share more thoughts on Wednesday February 26th when I post the results from this week’s poll. Please vote in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


Please Shut Down NLEC

November 18, 2013 Downtown, Featured, Homeless 33 Comments

Tomorrow the city’s Board of Public Service will continue hearing testimony in response to a petition calling for New Life Evangelistic Center’s hotel license to be revoked. Both sides have been presenting their arguments for weeks now.

ABOVE: The city has closed off the sidewalks around Larry Rice's New Life Evangelistic Center to prevent the homeless from sleeping on the public sidewalks overnight.
NLEC has operated out of the former YWCA at 1411 Locust St. since 1972. Click image for map.

Six years ago I bought a loft exactly two blocks to the west of NLEC. I was aware of the complaints about NLEC at the time but I also believed we can’t let one problem property owner ruin an entire neighborhood.Over the last six years I’ve become more familiar with NLEC, the homeless, and other homeless service providers. Those entities that provide needed services are not created equal.

Larry Rice has convinced many that he’s the only game in town. NLEC is, in fact, a very last resort for many — they’d rather sleep outside than on one of his cots. When NLEC kicks everyone to the curb at 6am the others begin providing meals, counseling, computers, showers, etc.

From my balcony I can see the building that houses another homeless agency one block south of me. The Bridge is a day shelter and provider of meals, they have a professional security staff that monitors activity inside and out. They work with their neighbors to improve the safety for everyone. NLEC says they’re not responsible for anything that happens outside their facility.

To the west of me is the Horizon Club:

Horizon Club is a 24-hour drop in center for individuals without homes, operated by DD Resources. It is also funded by Housing and Urban Development through the St. Louis City Department of Human Services. The City of St. Louis Department of Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, both seek to end homelessness.

Horizon Club offers membership and guest services to people without homes, especially those with disabilities. The Horizon Club features computer games, internet access, and satellite television as well as showers and lockers. This center is a safe place to spend time relaxing in a quiet recreation.

These other agencies are all trying to get the homeless off the streets, to improve their lives. NLEC, I believe, wants to keep the homeless on the streets — that helps them look needed and get donations. I think they’re fooling themselves to think they’ll end homelessness, though. Every time you get someone off the streets someone else will become homeless. I accept that I’ll always have homeless around my loft building.

Shutting down NLEC is the right thing to do for everyone except Larry Rice and his staff. The other homeless service providers can come out from behind NLEC’s shadow, the homeless will get more than a baloney sandwich, a bible, and a cot without a pillow or blanket.

Those wishing to let the Board of Public Service know how they feel about NLEC should email the board secretary, Cherise Thomas.

— Steve Patterson


Please Help Me Raise $75 For A Bus Ticket For A Homeless Young Man (Goal Reached!)

Early Wednesday morning, on the way to/from the grocery store, I saw a young man sitting at a cafe table at a Washington Ave business that wasn’t open yet. As I passed by both times he looked out of place, you just don’t see young men wearing football shorts & jersey at 7am with a couple of bags in tow. He looked out of it.

After I put away my groceries I decided to return to the spot, I brought a banana for him and I wrote the address of The Bridge on a post-it attached to my business card.  I nervously approached him, asking if he was ok. He wasn’t, he was dropped off in St. Louis a day or two earlier by Rolla, Missouri police.  He’d spent the previous night a Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center. They put everyone back on the street at 6:30am.  He was in shock at his predicament: a 22 year old from an upper middle-class family in Washington state now homeless in downtown St. Louis.

I took him to The Bridge at 16th & Olive so he could get something for breakfast and hopefully some assistance. I looked him up on Facebook and friended him, he’d accept later when he got to the library to use a computer for the 2 hour maximum.

He came to Missouri for a year-long drug & alcohol rehab program located in Cabool MO (south of Ft. Leonard Wood), but got kicked out after 10 months for failing once to comply with their rigorous schedule.  He’s clean & sober, trying to rebuild his life. He’s trying to get to Milwaukee WI where another young guy he met at the rehab center lives with his parents, they’ll take him in and help him get work.

You’re right to be skeptical about his story, but everything he’s told me checks out. His family on Facebook want nothing to do with him.

Thursday I bought him travel-size toiletries, let him shower, shave, made him lunch, let him do laundry, and use a computer. He stayed through dinner when he returned to NLEC for the night. He tried Travelers Aid on Tucker, they’ll only pay 25% less a $10 fee.

So I’m trying to get this young man on a bus, and off our streets. I’m afraid to much time in his current situation and he’ll return to alcohol & drugs.  My goal is $75 total, $65.50 for the ticket and $10 in pocket cash/pre-paid card.
Here’s how I got to $75:

A one-way ticket to Milwaukee is just $45
A one-way ticket to Milwaukee is just $45

Donation Total:

Because the credit card holder (me) isn't traveling, there's an $18 gift ticket fee
Because the credit card holder (me) isn’t traveling, there’s an $18 gift ticket fee, plus the $2.50 facility fee. Plus $10 in pocket change for a total of $75.50

I’ll update the donation total below and delete the donation buttons once the $75 goal is reached. If 15-16 people would give $5 each this morning I can have him on a bus this afternoon!  In the event something happens and he doesn’t need a ticket I’ll donate the funds to The Bridge. Thank you for your help!

— Steve Patterson

Donation Total after PayPal fees:

  • $0.00 (5:45am)
  • $72.52 (6:01am)
  • $81.93 (7:35am)

Now I just have to track him down! – SP


Readers: Why Didn’t The Homeless Sleep Inside The Shelter Instead Of The Sidewalk?

September 26, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Homeless 8 Comments
ABOVE: The city cites “health and safety reasons” for closing the sidewalks.

Nearly forty-percent of the readers that voted in the poll last week wanted to know why the homeless slept on the sidewalk rather than inside Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center:

Q: Your Thoughts On The City Closing The Sidewalks Around Larry Rice’s Homeless Shelter:

  1. Why aren’t the homeless sleeping INSIDE the shelter rather than on the sidewalk? 58 [39.46%]
  2. About time, they need to shut that place down 37 [25.17%]
  3. Rice is just using the homeless to build his organization 15 [10.2%]
  4. Larry Rice’s shelter is being unfairly targeted because he serves the homeless 11 [7.48%]
  5. Other: 10 [6.8%]
  6. Downtown residents are too intolerant of the homeless 9 [6.12%]
  7. I just hope the city doesn’t push the homeless to my neighborhood/city 5 [3.4%]
  8. Unsure/No Opinion 2 [1.36%]

As to be expected the responses to the given answers (above) and other answers  (below) ranged from support of, to opposition, of the NLEC model for dealing with the homeless.

  1. There has to be a better solution but I don’t know what solution would be.
  2. Sidewalks are public space. Close down the shelter and protect our sidewalks!
  3. There is definitely something political going on here beneath the surface
  4. empty school buildings + social worker and police = safe housing for winter?
  5. Let’s get Larry a one way ticke to Yemen. What a fucking jerk.
  6. moving the homeless doesn’t change the fact that poverty is a problem
  7. its bullshit. i needed to walk to 17th from OPOP and had to walk in the street
  8. No social workers. Dense facility. = bad
  9. 4: nimby, pawns, inside, intolerant
  10. Larry Rice is a publicity-seeking clown.

That model is basically require them to pray to Larry Rice’s deity if they want a place to sleep. Through other agencies the homeless can collectively get:

  • a hot meal prepared in a health department approved kitchen,
  • a mailbox,
  • use of computers & phone,
  • storage of personal belongings,
  • a place to shower,
  • use of laundry facilities,
  • social workers to help with issues such as drug/alcohol dependancy ,
  • occupational therapists to assist with skills needed to function in society,
  • and even travel assistance to return home if they’re stuck in St. Louis.

Many individuals without a home don’t want to be on the street but the road to get back to having their own place becomes so overwhelming by the time they find themselves sleeping on a sidewalk or park bench it takes many people to help them get their lives back together.

Imagine trying to get a job when all your clothes are in a plastic garbage bag, when you have limited access to a computer to search, no phone or a limited cell to get call backs, and have to wait in line to shower. Many homeless are employed, receive disability  or veterans benefits but they lack accounts for direct deposit and pay huge fees to get checks cashed. Much work needs to be done to get those who don’t want to be homeless into housing and provide for those in the future that find themselves in that situation. I don’t see NLEC being part of the solution.

— Steve Patterson



Poll: Thoughts On The City Closing The Sidewalks Around Larry Rice’s Homeless Shelter

The city’s efforts to address concerns raised by neighbors of Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC), a homeless shelter, took a new twist recently.

Thursday morning [9/6], the city cleaned the streets and sidewalks and set up barricades on sidewalks, where large groups of homeless people have been camping. (KMOV: City moves up clean-up schedule downtown)

Below are a couple of pics I took that afternoon:

ABOVE: A person is walking on Locust St because the city has closed off the sidewalks around Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) to prevent the homeless from sleeping on the public sidewalks overnight.
ABOVE: The city cites “health and safety reasons” for closing the sidewalks.

I posted the second pic to the UrbanReviewSTL Facebook page (link) and many comments came in — some glad the city finally took action and others defending Larry Rice and asking where the homeless are supposed to sleep with Lucas Park closed for renovations and now the sidewalks outside Rice’s shelter closed.

Given the divergent views on Facebook I knew this would make a good poll topic. The poll is in the right sidebar, the provided  answers are presented in a random order.

— Steve Patterson