Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Larry Rice's Homeless Shelter to Learn Fate on Tuesday; Friction with a Changing Neighborhood Led to a Year of Hearings on New Life Evangelistic Center

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Larry Rice's Homeless Shelter to Learn Fate on Tuesday; Friction with a Changing Neighborhood Led to a Year of Hearings on New Life Evangelistic Center

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The Rev. Larry Rice will soon learn the fate of his homeless shelter downtown.

The city's Board of Public Service has conducted more than a year of hearings on a petition to revoke Rice's hotel license, which allows him to operate his New Life Evangelistic Center as a homeless shelter. It will culminate today in a final decision just two days before Christmas. The board could mandate the shelter's closure or force significant changes to the way Rice operates it.

A group of downtown residents, led by developer Brad Waldrop, brought the matter before the board in 2013 alleging that the shelter is a drag on downtown and prevents investment in the heart of the city. A petition alleges that the shelter is "being operated in such manner as to constitute a detriment to its neighborhood." The petition cites loitering; littering; drinking in public; lewd and indecent conduct in and around the shelter; drug use and sales; and intimidating behavior and noise.

The New Life Evangelistic Center, the headquarters of Rice's multimillion-dollar religious and homeless operation, has been a fixture in downtown St. Louis since it opened in 1976. The last decade has seen a wave of public and private investment in the area around the shelter at 1411 Locust Street, creating a clash between wealth and poverty. Today, the dusty shelter sits near the edgy membership-only bar and restaurant Blood & Sand, the redeveloped Washington Avenue loft district and the $70 million restored Central Library.

An influx of new residents and young professionals has spurred a debate over how Rice operates the shelter and cares for New Life's building.

A St. Louis police officer testified last year that homeless people drawn to the area by Rice's shelter some doing drug deals outside of it, others performing sex acts take up a majority of his time. He accused Rice of being unwilling to compromise and work with city officials like other homeless service organizations.

In May 2014, a homeless man allegedly stabbed another homeless man near the corner of the Central Library at 13th Street and Olive Street.

Rice appeared before the board and said he is responsible only for what happens in his building, but he also said the portrayals of the people outside of his door are "not the homeless that I know. …

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