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Battle Heats up over Homeless in St. Louis

Rev. Larry Rice (UPI photo)
Rev. Larry Rice (UPI photo)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – The Reverend Larry Rice wants a St. Louis homeless services provider to admit that there's a need for more shelter space downtown.

Rice is requiring residents who spend the night at his shelter, and who also take daytime classes at the nearby St. Patrick's Center, to come with a letter of referral or to not come at all.

St. Patrick's opposed Rice's plans to expand into a surplus downtown federal building, arguing it would be a "warehouse" for the homeless.

Rice said Wednesday he wants written proof that St. Patrick's needs his help.

"We've asked those individuals to return to us with a letter, from St. Patrick's Center, telling us what they're learning, what services St. Patrick's Center is providing, what they're going to give the people as a result of coming there, and what they want us to do," Rice said.

St. Patrick's CEO Dan Buck said Rice is using the homeless to advance a political agenda.

"They were told that they either had to disengage with programs at St. Patrick's Center, or they had to get a letter on our letterhead stating that we were in dire need of housing, and that New Life Evangelistic Center was the only resource," Buck said.

Buck said he will not provide the letters, and is finding alternative housing for those Rice has turned away.

St. Patrick's offers job training, drug treatment and other services during the day, but most clients spend the night at shelters.

Rice also said Wednesday he is going to federal court in an attempt to reverse a Department of Health and Human Services decision that said he could not lease the Abram Federal Building.