Rev. Larry Rice vow's to fight city's cease and desist letter -

Rev. Larry Rice vow's to fight city's cease and desist letter

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ST. LOUIS ( --  The alarming rash of drug overdoses in the downtown St. Louis area has hit a critical level, with one first responder telling News 4 the city is almost at crisis stage with at least 75 cases since Monday.

It's all from synthetic pot known as K-2, Spice, Bliss, or Bombay Blue. Most of the overdoses are happening at 14th Street and Locust Street.

Many of those overdosing are homeless from the New Life Evangelistic Center, run by Reverend Larry Rice. But the overdoses aren’t the only problem the center is facing Tuesday. The City of Saint Louis is serving the rice with a cease and desist order, ordering him to get an occupancy permit for the shelter or shut down.

That notice came Monday. A day later, Rice said he's going to fight to stay open.

The city says the New Life Evangelistic Center opened in the 1970s with an occupancy permit of 32 beds, but these days it houses more than 300 people a night.

The cease and desist order is the latest in a long feud Rice has had with the city.

“So they want us to cease and desist which would put all these people out,” Rice said. “Good people end up sleeping on the streets.”

He held a news conference on the sidewalk outside his shelter with several people that he has served and continues to help.

“Patty" says she left an abusive relationship in March and is a recovering alcoholic.

“I had nowhere to go. I came here. I found God. All these people are like my family. If they close this down I don't have anywhere to go, don't have any hope,” she said.

But any support for the center is divided in the neighborhood. The outbreak of overdose cases is only the latest problem.

For years neighbors have voiced their opposition saying the center is a detriment to the neighborhood. Neighbors say they're fed up with not only the drug dealing and use, but public urination, public sex acts and fights.

Rice vows to fight to stay open.

“They would like for us to give up. We are not going to give up,” he said.

Rice says he would take his fight to the state level and all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court if need be.

The city says the shelter's been operating since May of 2015 without a permit.

It would appear in the city's eyes, the grace period is now over.

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