Why New Life Evangelistic Center Needs a Legal Defense Fund to Continue Housing the Homeless and Hurting

They moved into downtown St. Louis fully aware the homeless were on the street corners, in Lucas Park and coming to 1411 Locust in need of shelter. The fact that residents in 1501 Locust and 1511 Locust are not friends […]

They moved into downtown St. Louis fully aware the homeless were on the street corners, in Lucas Park and coming to 1411 Locust in need of shelter. The fact that residents in 1501 Locust and 1511 Locust are not friends of the homeless is made quite clear by their attempt to shut down the emergency shelter and housing services provided by New Life Evangelistic Center at 1411 Locust.

In spite of the late night noise and disturbances created by bars up and down Washington Street, Larry Waldrop (a property owner who signed the petition five times) and other residents would instead level their accusations of noise, public drunkenness and loitering at the poorest and most vulnerable in society: the homeless.

At a different time in history, their charges would be considered ridiculous, particularly in light of the fact that the sidewalks surrounding New Life have been barricaded for more than eight months.

But this is 2013, the year when it is wrong to discriminate against anyone who has money. Such discrimination is totally acceptable and even considered normal once people lose their homes and their money.

Discrimination against the homeless is obvious to anyone who tries to open a shelter or maintain one. It is also clear to those who see the sidewalks barricaded to prevent the homeless from sitting, eating or walking on the sidewalks. These barricades exist on Locust between 14th and 15th streets and on 15th Street between Locust and St. Charles and on St. Charles Street between 14th and 15th streets. At the same time, those on Washington Street with money can sit at tables set up outside restaurants on the sidewalks.

Lucas Park, which was once frequented by the homeless, is now fenced off except on the northeast corner. You must be a dog or a person with money to use it. Since the homeless were the ones primarily using the park benches near Soldiers Memorial, these benches have been removed.

1411 Locust Street has provided housing for 100 years. First, it was for women in need through the YWCA, and then since 1976 for men, women, and children through the work of New Life Evangelistic Center.

A major legal defense fund has been established to keep those desiring to keep the homeless out of sight and out of mind from taking NLEC’s hotel permit. If 1411 Locust is not open from 3:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. each and every night to the homeless and hurting, the question remains: Where will hospitals, police departments, social workers and others send their homeless when they are told by the 211 regional hotline that all the shelters are full?

Anywhere from 150 to 300 individuals a night are housed in the five-story facility at 1411 Locust. Many who have stayed there can testify that the availability of shelter at 1411 Locust has saved their lives.

Since 1986, the court-ordered consent decree Graham vs. Schoemehl has required that a 24-hour shelter, transportation, and other services be provided for the homeless. Salvation Army Harbor Light was one of the first emergency shelters partnered with the mayor’s task force to provide shelter for men in compliance with the court order. Under the city led Continuum of Care plan, this shelter was quietly closed and the men reassigned to other shelters.

New Life Evangelistic Center at 1411 Locust has been providing 24-hour services without city, state or federal funding. Can those who truly care about the homeless remain silent on this issue knowing full well that federal funding for many homeless services will dry up in September due to sequestration?

If New Life is shut down by the city like Hopeville, Dignity Harbor, Sparta and now Camp Plum, where will the homeless find shelter that they can just walk into?

In downtown St. Louis, the war on poverty has become the war on the impoverished homeless. There is less shelter available than ever, the homeless encampments have been shut down, and now neighboring condominium owners want to do the same to New Life. Will you now stand up at this time in word and deed and declare enough is enough by supporting New Life Evangelistic Center’s legal defense fund? You can give below.

Remember Jesus said, “As often as you have done it to the least of these even so you have done it unto me”.  Your prayers and gift now will help guarantee that the homeless and hurting in Mid-America will always have a place to sleep in their time of need.

Donate to New Life Evangelistic Center’s Legal Defense Fund