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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rev. Larry Rice Considering Lawsuit as City Shuts Street Outside New Life Evangelistic Center

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Page 2 of 2

About 200 to 250 people sleep at the shelter each night, while dozens wait outside on the sidewalks.

The city laid out its case in a press release sent out yesterday afternoon:

Nearby residents have complained of unsanitary conditions with people defecating and urinating on the street and sidewalks, have worried about very young children spending the night outside, and have reported excessive drinking and drug use resulting in fights, excessive noise, and other altercations. There has been a spike in calls for police service in that area.

"The individuals in this area seem to prefer to be outside of the New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) instead of entering the facility," said Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff. "I have been told by NLEC staff that they have sufficient space to accommodate all the individuals who gather outside their facility. It appears that some people who are homeless choose to remain on the street due to concerns about the condition inside the NLEC."

Workers from the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health, and the Salvation Army will be brought in to provide meals, service referrals, and shelter. Homeless children will be referred to Crisis Nursery.

However, the entire street will be shut down for a thorough cleaning, preventing anyone from sleeping around the center. Parking will not be allowed on any side of the NLEC. The police presence will be beefed up to arrest "troublemakers."

Click here for a copy of the city's entire statement.

Rice says not only is this detrimental to the homeless, who'll be shuffled off to some other part of the city, he characterizes the parking restrictions as a direct assault on the center's ability to function and receive donations, clothes, and food.

"We get $1,000 to $5,000 in in-kind donations a day," he says. Preventing parking, he contends, will essentially "cut off our donor support."

Rice says he plans to continue to provide usual services, but keep a close eye on the drop in donations over the next eight days. If they're substantial enough, Rice says he's prepared to sue. He says he's grateful for the help the city will provide to the homeless during the special enforcement period, but says that it's just a "dog and pony show" to cover the fact that the city is just evicting the homeless from downtown.

"When the head of human services can use the police as his personal goon squad," says Rice, "then something's grossly wrong."

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