RICHMOND HEIGHTS, MO–(KMOX)–The Galleria, that suburban temple of air-conditioned consumerism and disposable income, got a visit from some 40 homeless people from the hot streets of downtown.
Leading the caravan of six vehicles, the Reverend Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center said his goal was to bring the problem of homelessness to a place where its seldom thought of — and maybe get some unemployed people working.
“Instead of homeless people sitting in some cooling center wasting their time, they’re going to be applying for jobs,” Rice said, “They’re going to be going from place to place looking for jobs. They have a legal right to do that.”
Mall security was visible around the edges, as Rice’s group moved from the food court to the job application counter, but no one from the mall interfered or even spoke with Rice.
Earlier on the sidewalk outside his downtown homeless mission, Rice had warned he was prepared to do legal battle with the Galleria, if it tried to stop the homeless from their mission.
“They’re going to be walking like people do every day who jog through the center,” Rice said, “They’re going to be eating there. They’re going to be applying for jobs. If he (the Galleria general manager) wants to engage in this Jim Crow policy and try to run people off and label them homeless, and that’s the new N-word, then we’re going to have some serious problems.”
Among the homeless making the trip was 49-year old Steven Calcagno, an unemployed machine operator who used to work in metal fabrication.
“I had a few setbacks. I had a few medical issues in 2011 that kept me sidelined for a year, but I’m back to health and ready to go back to work,” Calcagno said.
Rice says he plans to make several trips to the Galleria with the homeless in the coming days. He plans no demonstrations there, but feels it’s good for the homeless to apply for jobs — and for the better-off to share the same space with them.
“They’ll have a chance to meet some people who maybe don’t know any homeless people,” Rice said, “people who have convinced themselves there are no homeless people. They’ll have a chance to see homeless people, which St. Louis county does a very good job of keeping them out-of-sight-out-of-mind by dumping them in the city.”