A rash of drug overdoses in downtown St. Louis near a homeless shelter is just one of the reasons local businesses are now fighting to shut it down.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit own several office spaces and a parking lot near the shelter. The business owners claim most of the guests who leave New Life Evangelistic Center in the morning engage in criminal activity or take part in activity that is a nuisance to public safety.
Attorney Elkin Kistner is representing the business owners.
He says the shelter isn't providing the homeless with the services they need to get back on their feet,
"There has to be a more proactive approach to this population to make sure they actually receive the services that eventually allow them to transition to a more stable lifestyle," Kistner said.
Laura Griffin, a grandmother of five and HOA president of the Printers Lofts said she's grateful the lawsuit was filed. She lives a few blocks from the homeless shelter an she says she doesn't want her grandchildren to see the activity she has seen near the center.
"I don't walk past there with my grandchildren. I don't take hem down there anymore. It's sad. We have a magnificent public library and a wonder small park for children and I can't take my grandson there," Griffin said.
Reverend Larry Rice said the lawsuit is just an attempt to get the homeless population out of downtown. He said the shelter has been in place for about 40 years and it wasn't until four years ago that there have been attempts to shut the shelter down. Rice said he intends on fighting the lawsuit. He said the parking lot next to him allows people to hang out in front of it and cause trouble.
"They purposely created this chaos. Now they're blaming us for it and we're just doing God's work," Rice said. "We don't want to see these women and children thrown out on the street during the holidays."
However, attorney Elkin Kistner said to suggest that any of his clients would try to create at atmosphere that allows crime downtown is ridiculous.
"We believe it's ridiculous, we believe we're going to prove it's ridiculous," Kistner said. "These people do their utmost to control the problem in terms of loitering on the street, drug dealing, open consumption of alcohol and public defecation."
Rice said his next plan of action is to appeal the city's cease and desist order and fight the lawsuit.