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Springfield seeks to stop homeless encampment

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The city of Springfield has filed a petition to stop a homeless advocate from housing homeless people at a property downtown.

The city filed the petition Wednesday asking a judge to permanently bar the Rev. Larry Rice and his New Evangelistic Center from violating a city ordinance with the downtown housing, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The city also wants a temporary restraining order preventing Rice from using the property while the case is considered.

Rice last week opened a parking lot next to his Veterans Coming Home Center as a campground for the homeless. The center, opened in 2008, is zoned for office use and is not allowed to operate as an overnight shelter or for use as a campground.

The city has not tried to physically remove campers or shut down the facility.

City Manager Greg Burris said the legal filings follow a pair of letters to Rice during the past week.

“We feel like we gave the center sufficient time to comply, and we’ve seen no evidence they’ve taken any action or intend to comply,” Burris said.

If a judge grants the city’s request for a restraining order or injunction, “it’s my understanding that would allow law enforcement to enforce the court’s decision,” Burris said.

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