ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Rev. Larry Rice’s vision for “Integrity Village” didn’t last long.
Police officers, led by Public Safety Director Eddie Roth, moved in late Wednesday to clear a two-acre piece of land that the Rev. Rice had hoped to fashion into a tent city for the homeless. The area had been deemed condemned for occupancy, based on Rice’s failure to secure permits.
Rice and three others, who appeared to be volunteers, were arrested for occupying a condemned space.
“Now I know what the homeless go through every night. They have to move out of the parks or they get arrested this way,” Rice said to reporters as he was led into the back of a police wagon. “We have to have some place for them to go, and I still think they need a tent community. A transitional tent community.”
There were fewer than a dozen tents dotting the green patch of land, at Vandeventer and I-44, at the time of the sweep. Those who’d set them up willingly took them down.
Neighbors who had been upset with the encampment in their backyards watched. Some applauded.
Four of the homeless campers accepted offers to be driven in a van to an emergency AmeriCorps shelter in Soulard.
“We understand that Rev. Rice sometimes uses poor people as props, and we didn’t want them just sort-of cut loose,” Roth said.
Rice rented the land for $1 a year in his effort to replace recently closed homeless camps along the riverfront.