Community strives to meet homeless needs; there are better options for federal building

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The topic of homeless people in Cape Girardeau is complex and worthy of serious attention by agencies that have the mission and the financial means to address whatever needs there are.

The request by the Rev. Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis to obtain the federal building on Broadway for use as a homeless shelter is one part of the issue, and it is one that needs to be handled carefully.

Widespread opposition -- from churches and social agencies that regularly deal with the homeless here -- to Rice's application is based on the best potential use of the 47,000-square-foot building, which is excess property now that the new Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. U.S. Courthouse is in use three blocks away. Federal law gives precedence to qualified applicants on behalf of helping the homeless. Cape Girardeau County officials are interested in using the building to replace the old Common Pleas Courthouse, which needs serious upgrading.

It doesn't matter who or what group might propose to use the downtown federal building for homeless services. It's a bad idea. The old federal building is too big for the homeless needs here. The cost of retrofitting it would be exorbitant. Operating costs would be excessive. It's too far from Interstate 55, the main travel corridor for the homeless.

There are better ways to meet those needs, and the community is working hard to make sure that happens.

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