The trouble with the homeless and Larry Rice

(KPLR) – In Tuesday’s Jacology, Charles Jaco looks at homeless and Larry Rice.
How close are you to being homeless? Probably a lot closer than you think. Let’s say for example you lose your job, and develop some sort of expensive illness. That could put a middle class person on the street within months, a working class person within weeks. Add kids to the mix, and you have a real tragedy. Which is why most people’s default position is to feel sympathy for the homeless; but then reality intrudes. You encounter enough homeless single males who are alcoholics, drug abusers, or mentally unstable, and your sympathy wears thin.

Which is why people like the Reverend Larry Rice are lightening rods; they work with the homeless. So at first they engender respect. But many of them also enable the homeless, overlooking their bad public behavior and lack of hygiene. And then the respect fades. Larry Rice’s downtown neighbors are tired of him and his New Life Evangelistic Center. They say the center shelters people who drink and use drugs and are violent in public. The center runs as a homeless shelter because it has a city hotel license. The neighbors want the hotel license revoked, and the shelter closed.

Rice is fighting it. But he’s almost alone among homeless advocates. Others who work with the homeless, from the St. Patrick’s center to the city, have no use for Rice. They say he’s merely running a warehouse and provides little in support services. Rice replies that he provides all sorts of services, and that his critics just don’t like him. Which is possible, since Larry Rice doesn’t exactly have a soothing personality.

But the fact remains, homeless people head to downtown St. Louis because that’s where the services are. Police and other agencies from surrounding areas in two states regularly drive the homeless out of their jurisdictions, and into the city. Larry Rice bears some blame for their public behavior downtown. But, so do all the suburbs and outlying counties who provide almost no homeless services, and shove them into the city.

I’m Charles Jaco, and that’s Jacology.

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Email: charles.jaco@tvstl.com

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