Shouting Match — Minister Faces Opposition to Dream of Homeless Camp
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Residents living near the Interstate 44 and Vandeventer vacant lot where the Reverend Larry Rice wants to establish a homeless village turned out to strongly oppose his plan.
What was supposed to be a scripted news conference with Rice extolling the need for another tent city unravelled into a shouting match, with residents and an alderman getting in Rice’s face.
“You want to put a tent city down here were we live! This is our back yard,” shouted Antoinette Williams.
Renter Stephanie Co says she only found out about the plan a few days ago, and doesn’t like the way it was conceived without neighborhood input.
Homeowner Lamont Hill challenged Rice to “walk in the neighborhood at night,” saying what is now a “peaceful” area where he doesn’t lock his doors, will become a haven for crime and beggars.
Neighborhood Alderwoman Marlene Davis and also got into a full-voiced debate with Rice over his plans. “Why don’t you take them all and put them on the nice farmland you own?”
“Well, we do, we have nice training facilities,” Rice said, “They’re going to have to follow rules here. No alcohol, no drugs, no stealing and no obnoxious behavior.”
Rice claims he has “about 40″ signatures from neighbors supporting the plan, but when KMOX asked to see the signatures, he said he didn’t have it with him.
Rice also finds him under threat from the Slay Administration . Public Safety Director Eddie Roth calls Rice’s tent city plan a “stunt.” Roth says the city will use its zoning and sanitary laws to quickly remove any tents as soon as they are put up.
No tents are there now. Rice says he plans to erect a tent at noon on Wednesday to hold a “church service.”
Roth was asked if the religious aspect of the first tent might limit what the city can legally do. Roth says any tent will be viewed as a step toward homeless occupancy and it will be removed.
The city has spent the past few weeks relocating dozens of tent-dwelling homeless form the riverfront to place them in apartments and motel rooms paid for through federal tax dollars.