St. Louis City cleans up streets near controversial homeless shelter

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - Tuesday morning St. Louis City and the New Life Evangelistic Center were on the same mission. St. Louis City officials and the shelter's operator, the Rev. Larry Rice are rarely on the same page. However, piles of abandoned belongings soaked with rain and contaminated with food and urine presented a health problem on sidewalks next to the shelter at 15th and Locust.

The center had complained to the city Health Department while Eddie Roth, director of the Saint Louis Human Services Department brought city refuse workers to the scene.  After both had agreed which piles were abandoned items, city workers began loading property into a truck for storage and emptying overflowing trash cans into a garbage truck. Sidewalks were power washed after shovels of debris had been removed.

Scott Egan, the NLEC shelter manager, said those camping on the sidewalk had been barred from the shelter because of behavior and drug abuse problems. He said, "We try to keep the sidewalk in front of our building clean, but we cannot order them to leave from property we do not own."

Nearby resident Alan Wolff said the homeless problem has been worsening since summer. "We moved in 11 years ago and knew about the shelter, but no one stayed outside on the sidewalks then. "A neighbor, Kathy Smith, criticized the city for failing to reach out to the homeless who sit all day outside the shelter. Rice's shelter does not allow homeless clients to spend the day inside unless they are part of a training program run by the center. Egan said, "We urge them to interact with caseworkers at the Biddle House, but few of them do."

Rev. Rice continues to operate the shelter for some 200 without a city permit.  Egan said staff was working to secure the necessary signatures from nearby residents as part of its re-application process.  It is not clear how long the city will allow the shelter to remain open.