A group of homeless St. Louis residents and advocates plan to march on City Hall and the social service agency St. Patrick Center this morning. Not expected to take part in the protest is the Rev. Larry Rice, director of the downtown homeless shelter New Life Evangelistic Center and a frequent critic of Mayor Francis Slay.
"We don't want this to be dismissed as another contest between Rev. Rice and the mayor," says Brian Ireland, a case worker at New Life and an organizer of today's event. "It's time to move beyond that."
The goal of this morning's march, says Ireland, is to encourage city officials to add more emergency beds for the homeless. In 2005 Mayor Slay launched a ten-year plan to eliminate chronic homelessness that works to transition the indigent into permanent housing and away from emergency shelters.
"In the meantime, there aren't enough beds for people currently in need," says Ireland.
Today at St. Patrick Center the marchers will test how effectively the Housing Resource Center is able to meet the needs of homeless men and veterans. At City Hall the group will present a Sunshine Law request asking that the city give a specific accounting as to how it has earmarked and used $50 million in federal funding to aid the homeless.
The march begins at 9:30 a.m. at Lucas Park. This past summer several downtown residents fed up with homeless loiters in Lucas Park circulated a petition asking that the city revoke the building permit for the nearby New Life Evangelistic Center.
-- Chad Garrison