[Here is a guest post by my dad, Larry Rice, an advocate for fair housing rights and the right of the homeless to form an organized tent city. He was recently arrested in the Botanical Heights Neighborhood for attempting to use private property leased by his church, NLEC, to worship and allow the homeless to sleep. The city came and condemned the property and then told him to leave within a few hours. When he and three others refused, they were arrested, charged with a misdemeanor, and released the next day. The ACLU of Eastern Missouri publicly condemned the city’s actions, saying it was an abuse of power on the basis of what might be done in the future. ]
Who are the real criminals? It is not those who have had their tents and structures bulldozed along the riverfront and are now forced to violate the law as they sleep in the parks after 10pm or in the alleys, the storefronts or on the sidewalks.
Who are the real criminals? It is not those who have their land condemned within hours after trying to put their tents on lots they had legally leased at Vandeventer and North of Highway 44.
Who are the real criminals? They are not those seeking to have the city of St. Louis provide one acre of ground where they may legally reside while members of the Board of Alderman can provide one hundred acres of ground to just one developer who is also give the right of eminent domain to take the homes of the poor and elderly.
Who are the real criminals? They are not those who panhandle a few dollars at the intersections but those who in return for tax abatements get political contributions and remain in power without term limits as they continue to pass laws that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Who are the real criminals? They are not those who “occupy a premise” illegally condemned because they want to worship God in word and deed on ground He has given them to use for His glory. The real criminals are those who will not obey the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act that declares federal surplus property like the Abram Building on Market is to be used to provide shelter and affordable housing for the homeless. Instead of following the law they will steal it from the homeless and then put the Director of Human Service’s office in that building from which he can control the Continuum of Care and federal dollars for the homeless in order that his boss the mayor may remain in office forever.
Who are the real criminals? It is not the homeless who are living in their cars or like vagabonds going from shelter to shelter because of gentrification policies that have randomly destroyed the low income housing provided by private landlords for over a generation now. The real criminals are those who lie to the homeless and tell them if they leave their tents at Vandeventer and North 44 and get on their bus and go to the shelter they will be getting housing vouchers only to be denied such the next day and told to call the Housing Resource Center. It’s a fact, this Housing Resource Center, because of over crowding in the shelters turn away more homeless people every day then they place.
Who are the real criminals? We will let Jesus Christ determine that as He promised in Matt. 25:31-46 when he said “as often as you have done it to the least of these even so you have done it unto me.” In the mean time, we will continue to fight for a civil rights issue, the right to housing, so that veterans, the elderly, the unemployed and the homeless of all walks of life will have the freedom to have a place to lay their heads at night even if it is a tent.