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Homeless Tent Pops Up In North County

Brad Choat
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A homeless person awaiting the set-up of a tent in north St. Louis County on Saturday, August 11, 2012. Rev. Larry Rice identified the woman as one who's planning to sleep at the encampment. (KMOX/Brad Choat)

A homeless person awaiting the set-up of a tent in north St. Louis County on Saturday, August 11, 2012. Rev. Larry Rice identified the woman as one who’s planning to sleep at the encampment. (KMOX/Brad Choat)

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updated: August 12, 2012 11:55am

The Reverend Larry Rice was told Saturday evening his new tent for the homeless on a vacant lot in north St. Louis County was not sanitary and would not be allowed. The tent came down late Saturday.

our earlier story:

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOX) - Reverend Larry Rice is moving ahead with plans for an Integrity Village homeless encampment in north St. Louis County.

After decades of running the New Life Evangelistic Center homeless shelter in the city of St. Louis, Rev. Rice says he’s branching out to the county, “It’s kind of a last resort. Before this, I wanted to see a county shelter open up. I believe the good people of St. Louis County want to see a shelter opened up. They encounter the same problems anybody does. Any time talk of a shelter comes up there’s hostility and prejudice toward the homeless.”

Volunteers put up a large green-and-white “canopy-style” tent Saturday morning on Lada Avenue, just off Natural Bridge.

St. Louis County police captain Kurt Frisz says neighbors called on his officers to make sure the encampment is legal, “We have been in contact with the health department and zoning. We’ll monitor the situation, and if there are ordinance violations, we will enforce the ordinances at such time.”

Frisz says one thing they’ll be checking is how many people spend the night under the tent, “The county ordinance says only three un-related people would be able to stay tonight. However, there are other things not in place that need to be.”

Neighbor Linda Lawrence is opposed to the encampment, “There is no proper sanitation, no water, no proper shelter for these people. I feel Mr. Rice is just pimping these people out for his own use. Are we just just supposed to stand by and let this happen? I’m sorry. I don’t want them using the side of my house for a toilet.”

The land was donated to the New Life Evangelistic Center, as was an RV parked in the street, where two of Rev. Rice’s property managers will be staying. Lee Berryman is one of them, “We don’t allow drugs out here. We don’t allow alcohol or any kind of rowdy behavior. So, it’s not for everybody. It’s a temporary situation for those who cannot find housing elsewhere.”

That’s the case for 22-year-old former St. Louis County resident Emily Greene who hopes to move to the encampment from the streets of downtown St. Louis, “It’s better than sleeping on the street. It’s better than being vulnerable, as a young woman, to anything dangerous.”

Greene says she doesn’t buy the argument that being homeless leads to criminal acts, “There are people I know in all kinds of neighborhoods stealing gas and water and all kinds of things. All we want to do is stay in a tent and not steal anything, just get back on our feet.”

The encampment’s across-the-street neighbor, Jay Moore, says if anything, the new development may help cut down on the break-ins that have happened on Lada Avenue, “It’ll make the ‘county brown’ (St. Louis County Police) come through here a little more, checking on them. I think it’s cool.”

Rev. Rice says Moore has agreed to allow the tent dwellers to come over and use his bathroom until NLEC can get a portable toilet placed on the property.

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