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Belleville, IL (KSDK) - Longtime homeless advocate Rev. Larry Rice thinks he's found a long-term solution for the region's homeless housing problem. He wants to convert the former YMCA building in downtown Belleville into a shelter.

Rev. Rice said many homeless people on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River routinely end up at his shelter in St. Louis, the New Life Evangelistic Center because they have nowhere else to go closer to their home.

The Belleville YMCA called Turner Hall, located at 15 N. First Street, home since 1923. In 2006, the organization moved to a new building, leaving the fate of Turner Hall up in the air. The Belleville News-Democrat reported Mayor Mark Eckert said it would cost about $4 million to restore Turner Hall and $500,000 to demolish the structure.

St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney said Rev. Larry Rice paid him a visit and asked about circulating a petition to Belleville residents to save the building. Rice's petition would require a few thousand signatures to win approval. If Rice produces the signatures, voters would get a chance to say "yea" or "nay" to the proposed plan on the April 2013 ballot.