Rev. Larry Rice fires back over future of downtown shelter

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - The Reverend Larry Rice fires back at city leaders this morning in an ongoing battle over the future of his downtown shelter. He says he will file a federal lawsuit to try and stop an order from the city of St. Louis that he limit the number of people who stay at his facility on Locust called the New Life Evangelistic Center. Rice says the suit could be filed as early as tomorrow.

He took our cameras inside the shelter this morning to try and prove that more goes on there than only the homeless spending nights. Rice showed us a life skills class going on in one room inside the shelter.

Rice tells us he has several classes at the shelter that teach people skills they can then use to try and improve their situations and not be homeless. Questions have been raised by city officials about whether Rice`s shelter does enough to try and break the cycle of homelessness for people who stay there. In December, city officials gave Rice until May 12th to reduce the number of people staying at the shelter to 32. That is how many people Rice`s permit from the city allows him to have staying at the facility. We understand that often times Rice has far more than that with numbers in the hundreds.

Rice told us this morning that he has 50 people living there right now separate from those who spend nights at the facility. Rice calls the city`s order unreasonable and impossible.  He says he will fight against restricting the amount of people who can stay there.

Rice says the federal lawsuit will claim that forcing the shelter to reduce its numbers will cause undo harm to the church congregation that Rice runs there. Rice also said that his group is in the process of trying to raise money to open a new shelter in Venice for Illinois people who need help.

Rice apparently has a building but needs to raise $55,000 to secure it and make needed repairs. For their part, city officials say they have offered Rice help financial and otherwise if he were to come into compliance with his permit. They say that they are moving forward with or without him.

City officials tell us they plan to open two new shelters by mid-April and others are expanding. That plan will add 225 beds for the homeless.

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