ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- After a year of hearings, a judge ruled that the controversial New Life Evangelistic Center's operating license will be revoked if the shelter does not make the required changes.
The St. Louis Board of Public Service ruled Tuesday that the New Life Evangelistic Center's shelter will close effective May 12 unless it complies with regulations. The occupancy permit allows up to 32 beds. City leaders say that many nights, the shelter holds up to 300 people.
The center is operated by the Rev. Larry Rice, who has often been at odds with city leaders. The permit for the center currently holds a hotel license that was obtained in the 1970s, which the Board of Public Service rules should no longer be valid.
The decision, follows complaints from neighborhoods of the shelter downtown, many of which allege illegal behavior and violence around the center.
"People see urination, car vandalism, intimidation, harassment. It's a terrible situation and it's a terrible situation for the homeless, as well," said a resident. "And at some point in time, the neighborhood has rights and they exercised those rights through this process."
The ruling was met with anger in the courtroom on Tuesday, as crowds chanted "homeless lives matter" and "we are human beings."
The board does not plan to enforce the revocation of the permit until May 12, 2015. Before the May deadline, the NLEC shelter can make changes to comply with the current permit, which would allow no more than 32 people to sleep at the center at a time. The shelter also has the option to apply for a new license with the city.
"We are a church, the whole contention is, why do we need a permit?" Rev. Rice asked. "We don't need a permit. To get a permit means that we have to go back to the same people who signed this to shut us down to okay us to have a shelter. That's ridiculous."
Reverend Rice plans to appeal the decision.