ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Board of Appeals has ordered closure of the New Life Evangelistic Center, a downtown homeless shelter.

The board ruled Thursday that the Rev. Larry Rice must close the center by April 1. Rice had appealed the initial shutdown order, claiming it violated his religious rights.

An official with New Life says further appeals are planned.

City leaders contend that Rice operates the center illegally and in violation of several ordinances. Some downtown advocates also claim the shelter is a nuisance, creating panhandling and crime concerns.

The city had a permit for 32 beds but city leaders say it often houses more than 200 people. The permit expired in 2015, but Rice has continued to operate without a permit.