Friday, November 16, 2012

A Minister I Actually Admire (Help Him In His Fight For the Homeless)

I know that I'm always exposing the harm done to the world by extremist ministers and denominations, it's necessary to do this, they need to be exposed for who they are and the damage that they are doing.
However, once in a truly great while, I run across a minister or congregation that is actually doing some good for this world.

Larry Rice, Larry Rice protests, charity, homelessnessThough obviously I don't agree with him when it comes to religion, or even some of his protest antics in calling attention to homelessness in the St. Louis area, one minister that is definitely trying to do the right thing is St. Louis based pastor Larry Rice. He has devoted his career as a pastor (over 30 years now) to helping the desperately poor and homeless of Missouri, and standing up against harassment and abuse of the homeless by law enforcement. 

He has missions and/or homeless shelters in St. Louis, Springfield, Missouri and the woodlands town of Potosi in Southeast Missouri, and he has been used to fighting local governments in city council meetings and courtrooms when they have tried to keep new missions of his from opening, or have tried to make life difficult for his shelters and their residents.

St. Mary's hospital St. Louis, Larry Rice protest
Rev. Rice leading protest at St. Mary's hospital
He has also been active in organizing protests against harassment and abuse of the homeless by law enforcement, like his protests over the death of Anna Brown this April while in the custody of police from the St. Louis suburb of Richmond Heights, Missouri. Anna Brown was literally dragged from a hospital at the insistence of hospital officials for "trespassing" because she came to the hospital for medical help.

She kept telling the officers that she couldn't walk, and had severe pain in her legs., but officers carried her from the hospital into a police car, then carried her from the car to a jail cell at the police station. She died within hours because of a blood clot in her legs that traveled to her lungs.

Today he has a new campaign and struggle with a local government, he is planning to put on the ballot in the Southwest Illinois suburb of Belleville an advisory referendum that would ask voters in that city this April (2013)  if they would want the city of Belleville to donate an abandoned former YMCA building that the city owns, so it can be renovated and turned into a homeless shelter.

He wants to start this shelter, his first outside of the state of Missouri, because his St. Louis shelter is getting crowded, and he started to find out that many of the people in his St. Louis shelter were coming from the Southwest Illinois suburbs because there isn't enough resources to help them there (and Illinois police often try to encourage homeless people to go to St. Louis to get them out of their communities). For instance, in my town, Granite City, there are two homeless shelters, but they are often quite busy, and both are for women and children only (and one is domestic violence victims only at that, further limiting who can get help). If someone is a Granite City resident and homeless (especially the men), there's often little help available.

Belleville mayor Mark Eckert
Even though this referendum is not legally binding, as you can imagine, the Belleville mayor, Mark Eckert, isn't happy about it. He's lashing out at Rev. Larry Rice calling this nothing more an attention stunt on his part. I personally think that the mayor is trying to draw attention away from the fact that local leaders in this area are often hostile to the homeless, and those who try to help them, and he's bitter about Rev. Rice calling him out for it in his way.

 Many leaders in this area have a mentality that I like to call "homeless people grow on trees". It's a mindset that anyone who tries to help them will only make matters worse, as if starting a new homeless shelter or soup kitchen is like planting a tree that will grow more homeless people that didn't exist in the first place, instead of the missions coming together to help those who are already in a horrible place in their lives. Their strategy is to harass the homeless until they leave and become some other town's problem, and punish those who are truly trying to make a difference in the world.

Don't you think it would be a smarter idea for the city of Belleville to turn over this building, which currently is a drain on the taxpayers due to upkeep costs, (and it isn't being used anyway), to turn it over to someone who wants to make a difference?

If you agree, I want to tell the Belleville mayor Mark Eckert this, that you support the efforts to help the homeless. Go here to the city directory page, which has a link for an e-mail contact form, or this Monday morning, call his office at (618) 233-6810 extension 212. (In fact, you might call now, and see if there is a voice mailbox, which there likely is, and leave a message, so you don't have to wait).

I would love to see his phones light up, and his e-mail inbox full of messages in support. I'm sure you all do this, will you join in on letting the mayor know how you feel about this?

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