Larry Rice: Metro’s Bench Dividers Symbolize War Against Homeless
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A move by the St. Louis-area mass transit agency Metro will make it harder for homeless people to nap on bus shelter benches downtown, a move that has angered some advocates for the homeless.
KMOX Radio reported, Metro is installing plastic dividers, two per bench, making it impossible to lie down. Spokeswoman Patti Beck said the dividers will allow more passengers to sit down while waiting for a bus. The partitions have been installed in 40 downtown locations, and Metro has the money for up to 250.
Beck said the homeless and others who sleep at the shelters are not the primary reason for the dividers, but they are a factor.
The Rev. Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the dividers are symbols of “the ongoing war against the homeless.”
“Even if the benches didn’t have dividers, police or Metro security would be running them off if they lay down,” Rice said.
Clinton Camp, 45, told the newspaper he has often slept at a bus shelter on Market Street.
“This will stop you from sleeping on the bench,” Camp said of the 4-inch-high dividers. “I sleep on the ground where it’s colder. At least I have a backpack and mat. Not everyone who’s homeless has that.”
Beck said: “It’s all part of the loitering. You’re not a customer, and our customers come first. So if you are not a Metro customer, you shouldn’t be loitering or hanging around.”
Beck said Metro customers who are waiting for a bus are reluctant to ask someone to move over if that person is taking all the bench space with bags or purses, Beck said.
Michael Stoops, director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, said other cities have put up dividers and flower beds around bus shelters.
“They won’t admit it publicly, but it’s targeted at the homeless population,” he said.
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