ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – St. Louis City officials said they have a plan to find shelter for the homeless who will be impacted by an official order commanding the New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) to reduce its capacity or face closure.
Officials said they will ask existing agencies to expand their number of beds and plan to open emergency shelters ahead mid-April of when the order is to take effect. The city held hearings in December and declared the shelter a nuisance, ordering it to apply for a new permit and agree to a maximum of 32 beds. On cold nights, around 300 people stay at NLEC. The order was handed down after nearby residents complained about public drinking and drug use.
“Essentially 32 is not an option,” said Chris Rice with NLEC. “We do want to see our numbers drop. We want to see the city open more shelters. We want to see the region open more shelters, but 32 is not an option for us.”
No matter what NLEC decides to do, Mayor Francis Slay said the city has plans to find places for the homeless to go.
“We’re going to be asking some existing facilities that are now providing homeless services to expand facilities and we’re also looking to find some location to create new facilities for intake,” Slay said.
Slay also said the city will need to spend an additional $1 million to meet that goal and will use federal grant money from an affordable housing trust fund to cover the cost.
NLEC said it will not comply with the city’s order and instead will sue in federal court. NLEC argues it is both a shelter and a church and should not have to agree to occupancy limits.