Fire damages St. Louis shelter for homeless

Friday, March 8, 2002

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- A fire that damaged a downtown homeless shelter was intentionally set, investigators said Thursday.

Fire was discovered at around 2:30 a.m. Thursday in the basement of the New Life Evangelistic Center. About 130 people got out safely, but files and other items were damaged or destroyed.

The center is run by the Rev. Larry Rice, a longtime activist for the poor and homeless.

St. Louis bomb and arson investigators were looking for a disgruntled homeless man who was turned away from the shelter Wednesday night.

But Rice said the fire might have been set in response to his vocal opposition to public funding for a new downtown stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Jeff Rainford, a spokesman for Mayor Francis Slay, a proponent of the stadium plan, said Rice's comments were irresponsible.

Fire officials said the building had several code violations. Rice said he was working with inspectors to fix the problems.

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