It's been called a nuisance by neighbors and the city said it's operating illegally. Now, the New Life Evangelistic Center could be closing its doors for good.
This Thursday afternoon, a circuit judge has ordered the Reverend Larry Rice to close his downtown homeless shelter by Saturday. 5 On Your Side's Rebecca Sheehan spoke with Rice, who said he's now scrambling to find new shelter for these homeless.
Reverend Larry Rice moved into this building on Locust, in the heart of downtown St. Louis, more than 40 years ago.
Now, he's being forced to shut down his shelter but says he won't go down without a fight.
"I can't give up," he said. "This is what God has called me to do."
Every night, the New Life Evangelistic Center provides shelter for about 200 homeless people, 50 of which Rice calls permanent residents.
That number is well over Rice's occupancy permit for 32 beds, and that permit expired in 2015. He's been operating the shelter illegally ever since.
In November, the city issued a "cease and desist" letter, ordering him to shut down by April 1. Rice appealed but a circuit judge sided with the city.
Volunteers spent the afternoon moving out office supplies but the beds are staying, for now.
Rice — who's also running for mayor — says he's working to find alternative shelter for these homeless. The Affordable Housing Commission recently approved funds to open two new shelters.
"We're going to try to find places for the people, but it's very, very difficult," rice said. "People don't understand that these people are here because they've been turned away by all the other shelters and agencies, they're dropped off here"
Friday at 4 p.m., about 80 city agencies will meet wtih the homeless in Lucas Park to discuss next steps with them and where they might be able to find shelter.