Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis' Largest Homeless Shelter Emptied Following Order from City

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis' Largest Homeless Shelter Emptied Following Order from City

Article excerpt

Food was served and blankets were ready to be distributed to homeless people on the busy sidewalk outside New Life Evangelistic Center in downtown St. Louis early Sunday evening.

But for the first time in more than 40 years, the facility could not provide them with shelter, after being served a cease-and-desist notice by city officials ordering the building to be cleared of occupants by 5 p.m.

"It's sad. Real sad," said the shelter's operator, the Rev. Larry Rice. "All these empty beds that people could be in."

With the doors closed behind him, Rice vowed to spend the night and possibly the next few nights sleeping outside the facility with homeless people who had once slept inside. Rice said a circuit court judge is scheduled to address an appeal Wednesday by the shelter the largest in the city seeking to resume operation.

As staff members helped clear people and supplies from the building Sunday, Rice and allies of the shelter spent more than two hours at an afternoon rally inside. Speakers shared stories about the organization's assistance for homeless people, drug addicts and others in need, while blasting the city's action to shut its doors. Those in attendance were urged to help drum up votes for Rice, who is running as an independent mayoral candidate in Tuesday's election.

"The spirit of wanting to put a padlock on the door of this shelter, that's demonic," said Zaki Baruti of the Universal African People's Organization.

But city officials maintain that neighbors have cited the shelter as a nuisance that attracts crime and occasionally violence.

"This is really brought about by neighbors fed up with the conditions in and around his shelter and (Rice's) inaction to do anything about it," said Maggie Crane, communications director for the mayor's office. "There were a whole lot of allegations, frankly, that were substantiated in court. …

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