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Rice Loses Appeal for Downtown Federal Building

(UPI file photo)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – Televangelist and St. Louis homeless advocate Larry Rice has lost an appeal to turn the Abram Federal Building downtown into a homeless shelter.

Rice received word from the Department of Health and Human Services Friday.

Reverend Rice has been trying to get the building under a Reagan-era federal law that gives homeless services organizations dibs on surplus federal property.

Jeff Rainford, Chief of Staff for Mayor Francis Slay, says HHS officials agreed with the mayor that Rice's plan for an expanded New Life Evangelistic Center is not feasible.

The city also says the Abram Building should be converted into a parking garage. Officials say that's necessary for a developer to rehab the nearby Kiel Opera House.

HHS said Rice's New Life Evangelistic Center does not have the funds to operate the facility. But Rice said the department changed its rules while he was applying for the building.

"We proved in our application the second time around that there is a need that must be met, and we can meet that need through this federal surplus property," Rice said. And we believe that in court we'll have a much stronger application the second time around.

Reverend Rice said he plans to sue HHS, but he also remains open to negotiating with the city for another building.