ST. LOUIS (AP) – A judge didn’t immediately put the brakes on St. Louis’s plan to temporarily house homeless men displaced by the closure of a downtown shelter in a building used for gardening equipment and vehicles. But Circuit Judge Robert Dierker said Friday that he wants to hear more from opponents.
Related Story: Rev. Larry Rice Continues Fight to Keep NLEC Open
The St. Louis civil rights law firm ArchCity Defenders and the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinic sued after the Rev. Larry Rice announced Thursday that he will vacate the New Life Evangelistic Center by Sunday. The decision came after another judge sided with the city in denying Rice’s shelter permission to remain open.
While Dierker denied the request for temporary restraining order, he set a hearing for Wednesday on a preliminary injunction the opponents are seeking.
Rice, whose shelter has been operating without an occupancy permit since May 2015, said the site attracts about 150 people each night. But he acknowledged that the number of people camping out overnight in front of his shelter has grown exponentially in recent months, drawing complaints from nearby residents and businesses. The city revoked the permit due to chronic over-occupancy and building codes violations.
Opponents said in seeking a preliminary injunction that a city-owned building that houses the forestry division is “not suitable for habitability by humans.” Cots already have been laid out on a concrete floor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“It is literally warehousing the poor,” says Thomas Harvey, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, the public interest law firm that often represents low-income people, including the homeless. He’s also the chairman of the city’s Continuum of Care, an umbrella group of nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless.
The city’s director of Human Services, Eddie Roth, said the facility “is a perfectly reasonable transitional step.” He compared the city’s challenge to preparing for a sudden bout of bad weather.
“The storm has arrived,” Roth says, “and we’re ready.”
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