There is a hearing today concerning the hotel-permit of the New Life Evangelistic Center homeless shelter on Locust Street downtown ran by Rev. Larry Rice.
Rev. Rice is a household name in St. Louis largely due to owning KNLEC Channel 24. One of the questions I ask passengers is if they know who Larry Rice is. If they say no I know they are either not from St. Louis or don’t know shit about the city.
Where the shelter is used to be a lot of garment factories. By the time I was coming up most were vacant. Washington Ave at that time was about St. Louis Center, Levins, Levines and most importantly Gus’s. Gus’s on Washington and Tucker is where everyone went to get their fly gear during the hip-hop golden-age and Gus was a real character. When you would leave the store though you had to look out for robbers. Once in middle-school a homeless guy pissed on my brand new suade Filas on 14th Street as I turned the corner. Later when I was a street-vendor I would buy from Korean wholesalers on Washington. All of that stuff is long gone now though besides Levines and Levins.
The new downtown centered on Washington is home to loft-dwellers who tend to be young or childless professionals and older couples. At night it comes alive with the party crowd frequenting the bars and restaurants. Most come from places like Soulard, the Central West End or West County. Some of the places are rather pricey. Amongst the people living downtown there are a lot of West County folks and transplants. They are not accustomed to some of the challenges and complexities of city living.
I have always supported Rev. Rice and thought of him as a good man doing the Lord’s work. My grandparents send him money from their social security checks. However, in recent years I have became a little sour on him for a few reasons.
First off I just see homeless people lounging around all day and night in the park and streets in the area. Fights are routine, women are turning tricks and it is not a good atmosphere. Last year I had to get out of my car and intervene as two men were beating another man over a Slurpee. Where is the treatment? Job-placement? What’s the program. Some people don’t wanna be and can’t be helped. Those that do need resources.
I know you cant put this all on Rev. Rice. St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson, Linclon, Franklin, Madison, St. Claire and other regional counties pretty much have one homeless policy- dumping their homeless downtown on the city of St. Louis.
A regional approach with everyone paying their fair share is needed. This funding, which others have been advocating for years, can create good programs for people in need spread throughout the metro area not just focusing on downtown.
The downtown crowd is also not immune to criticism. They should have known this wasn’t Chesterfield when they moved in. Drug-use is common at these bars along with fights, public-urination and rowdy behavior. That is not all of the downtown crowd or even most for sure. Just saying they have shit on their side of the fence as well.
I like the new downtown and make money from it. I want to see it succeed and continue to prosper. People such as ray Hartman doubted it would get this far. Ten years from now the sky is the limit I just see it getting better and better.