Tuesday, December 1, 2015

St. Louis' Van-Theft Epidemic Claims More Victims — the Homeless

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 8:55 AM

click to enlarge As if stealing donations to the homeless wasn't bad enough, the thieves trashed Keita Dixon's minivan. - COURTESY OF KEITA DIXON
  • Courtesy of Keita Dixon
  • As if stealing donations to the homeless wasn't bad enough, the thieves trashed Keita Dixon's minivan.

Thieves targeting vans have become a huge problem in St. Louis — and it's not just touring musicians feeling the pain. In October, a wedding party was relieved of a bevy of ceremonial gownsLast month, a family of twelve was momentarily stranded downtown when their van was stolen. 

Now another theft can be added to the list. On Sunday, an unidentified man managed to steal a minivan packed with items destined for the city's homeless population. 

Keita Dixon, director of the homeless ministry at Bethel Christian Assembly Faith Fellowship in north county St. Louis, says that she collected the church's donations after Sunday services and loaded the items into her 2003 Chrysler minivan. When she stepped outside 30 minutes later, the van was gone. 

"We had received donations of suits, dresses, boots, toiletries, blankets," Dixon says. Those donations included winter clothing and men's apparel, which are among the most desperately needed items for those preparing to survive St. Louis' winter.

As for the theft itself, church surveillance footage captured a group of men walking along the street near the van before the actual break-in.

"Just kind of surveying the area, seeing what cars they were going to steal," Pastor Steve Simpson told KSDK (Channel 5). "Within less than 30 seconds he's in, breaks the steering column, and takes off with the van."

Police recovered the vehicle Monday. The van is heavily damaged and undrivable. The donations are gone. 

The timing couldn't be worse. Dixon and other volunteers are organizing an annual holiday meal for this coming Sunday at 1629 Biddle Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Although Dixon says they still have enough food to serve 150 homeless people, the van theft means those people won't be given warm clothing. 

It's no secret that winter is a dangerous season to be homeless on the streets of St. Louis. Those interested in assisting with the December 6 holiday meal can contact Dixon at 314-922-2246. Monetary donations to the non-profit hosting the dinner, Ladies After Community Enrichment (LACE), can be made at any Regions Bank. 

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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