Belleville, IL (KSDK) - A debate about homelessness is happening in the Metro East this week.
NewsChannel 5's cameras were rolling Tuesday as a well-known advocate confronted the Belleville mayor on the issue.
Reverend Larry Rice held a news conference Tuesday morning announcing an event he's planning for Saturday. It's meant to provide services for the homeless, while calling on Belleville to open a shelter.
NewsChannel 5 asked the mayor what he thought of the event. Here's a portion of what he said when rice walked up to confront the mayor during our interview.
"It's not just Belleville, and I think we had this conversation. We need to get all the mayors from southwestern Illinois and sit down with the churches. I'm not against that. I've had people stop and ask me, Mayor Eckert, how come you don't care about the homeless? Believe me, I have a deep compassion for the homeless," said Mayor Mark Eckert.
Eckert says he would like to have a shelter for the homeless, but it is a funding issue. A Salvation Army shelter in Belleville recently shut down over lack of donations, and now Reverend Rice says the homeless are being piled into downtown St. Louis.
"People are being pushed from place to place by local police, they're being dropped off downtown, there's a crisis at hand, people are in danger of dying. We've gotta do something and that's why we're addressing that today," said Rev. Rice.
"I have no problem trying to educate our better help the homeless if there's ways that they can guide them. But Rev. Rice's ways of communicating through the media instead of sitting down with us and trying to work through this in a serious way are a little disappointing," said Mayor Eckert.
Saturday's event is in Belleville's Hough Park.
Rev. Rice says he hopes to have services and care kits available for people in need.