Rev. Larry Rice Opens "Day Center" for Homeless at Galleria on Thursday

Jun 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm
Pretty swanky for a homeless shelter. - Photo: Jennifer Silverberg
Photo: Jennifer Silverberg
Pretty swanky for a homeless shelter.
Reverend Larry Rice is poised to pull off another high-profile attempt to house St. Louis's homeless -- in the Galleria mall in Richmond Heights. Starting Thursday afternoon, the ritzy shopping center is becoming, in Rice's words, a "day center."

"We're going to get lunch for them, have a few dollars in their pockets," says Rice. "We have quite a few homeless that are signing up."

On Thursday at noon, Rice says about 35 homeless men and women (and counting) will be ferried from the New Life Evangelical Center in downtown to the mall, where they'll be able to stay out of the expected record-high temperatures this weekend. He's encouraging them to apply for jobs and enjoy the serenity of the indoor plazas, as opposed to getting hustled off of benches and out of parks by cops. If all goes according to plan, members of the homeless community will be there everyday this weekend, and spend their nights back at NELC.

"They have the same rights to go to the Galleria as rich folks do," he says.

But the mall is also a symbol of something more. Public transit to the mall has been blamed for increased shoplifting, in what Rice characterizes as an attack on the poor. The mall is also a major revenue source for the city and therefore the Richmond Heights Police Department. In March, the department garnered national attention in the death of Anna Brown, a homeless woman who was arrested for refusing to leave a hospital. She died in her jail cell shortly after from a blot clot. In a statement, Rice is also calling on the county to provide services to the homeless in Brown's name.

The time has come to reverse the county official migration policy of sending the homeless from the county to the city. This will happen as growing numbers of homeless people start moving from the hot, hopeless streets of St Louis to the comfort and luxury of the St Louis County Galleria. May such a migration continue until Richmond Heights opens the Anna Brown Homeless Outreach Center and St Louis County stops referring all of its homeless to the City Homeless Resource Hotline and St Louis City shelters.

Read the entire statement here.

A call to the Galleria was not returned. Rice says if he observes retailers or security specifically targeting or refusing services to homeless people, they'll have a federal lawsuit on their hands.

We'll update as the "Galleria Day Center" approaches day one.