Leader of St. Louis homeless shelter bucks city board's ruling to scale back or face closure

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ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis preacher says he won't comply with a city board's demands to either scale back operations at his church's homeless shelter or shut down.

The city Board of Public Service voted unanimously this week to revoke the New Life Evangelistic Center's license on May 12 if the Rev. Larry Rice doesn't reduce occupancy to meet city regulations, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1wihsfw ) reported.

New Life's occupancy permit allows it to have a maximum of 32 beds, but officials say as many as 300 people to stay in the shelter some nights.

The tensions surrounding the ruling — which was made as more than 100 people chanted "homeless lives matter" in City Hall on Tuesday — show the conflict between the city's poor and wealthy residents and investors trying to develop downtown.

Residents who live and work nearby said the shelter fosters crime and stunts opportunities for economic growth. But Rice has defended the shelter as one of the city's few with emergency overnight assistance, and has clashed with city officials.

"White folks don't like black folks in their neighborhood," Rice said Tuesday, noting his shelter is the "last place for people to go."

One police officer testified to the board that the homeless deal drugs and perform sex acts outside the center. In May 2014, a homeless man allegedly stabbed another homeless man near the corner of the Central Library at 13th Street and Olive Street.

But that's "not the homeless that I know," Rice told the board.

Under the decision, New Life will have to reduce its intake to the legal maximum or apply for a new license. Rice said he plans to appeal the decision.

Brad Waldrop, a St. Louis developer who led the effort to revoke the license, said the shelter lacks needed long-term services to help the homeless escape poverty.

The city has won national praise in recent years for its approach to homelessness, which focuses on rehabilitation and job training — not just offering shelter.

Eddie Roth, the city's incoming human services director, said St. Louis will have to find a way to house the additional homeless if Rice's shelter closes.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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