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Rev. Rice: Use the Galleria as a day center for the homeless

by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 9:25 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 8 at 4:46 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- On Thursday afternoon, an email titled, "Let's Mall the Homeless" landed in the KMOV inbox.  In it, a Soulard man writes that he's soliciting donations to transport homeless people from downtown St. Louis to the Galleria in Richmond Heights so the homeless can have lunch and look for jobs.  Paul Kjorlie wrote that the New Life Evangelistic Center would like to raise $500 in start up funds.

Kjorlie also wrote:  this is not a joke.

The Reverend Larry Rice with the New Life Evangelistic Center confirms that, indeed, this is not a prank.  Rice says Kjorlie recently wrote him a letter, explaining his idea to send homeless people to the county.  Rice agreed to participate.

"It's only fair to use the Galleria as a day center for the homeless," said Rice.

Rice says he recently tried to push the city of Richmond Heights to build a homeless shelter in the county, following the death of Anna Brown.  Brown, homeless woman, died in a Richmond Heights jail cell last September of blood clots.  Officers arrested Brown at St. Mary's Hospital after she refused to leave.  

"It's only fair that Richmond Heights then should bear responsibility for opening a shelter.  The Galleria doesn't like that, then get Richmond Heights to open, get St. Louis County to open a day center.  Don't just keep dumping them in downtown St. Louis," said Rice.

Rice is the same man behind a tent city that was briefly erected near I-44 in south St. Louis last month.  Rice says he'll fight the city's shut down of the area he calls 'Integrity Village' and plans to go a step further and open new sites in the county, though he won't reveal where.

"We're going to continue to fight in court for that particular property.  In the meantime, Integrity Village is going underground, so to speak," he said.

As for the mall plan, one line of the fundraising email implies that Richmond Heights Police will be tasked with transporting the homeless out of Richmond Heights.

The email says:   "If there are enough funds available, we will take them back downtown in the evening - in time for bed check in our shelters.  If there aren't enough funds, the Richmond Heights Police Department can bring them back in their squad cars - since they already know the way downtown."

Richmond Heights Police said they weren't aware of the email until News 4 called on Thursday evening.

It's not clear how soon the money will be raised.  Kjorlie, the man who wrote the fund-raising email, told News 4 that he is simply spreading the word about the project and that the New Life Evangelistic Center would be responsible for collecting donations.  The NLEC says Kjorlie would have to come up with the money to get the program off the ground.

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