By Nammi Bhagvandoss

The men's shelter at the New Life Evangelistic Center, 831 S. Moffet Ave., will remain closed until fall in the wake of a shelter worker being accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in the building.

Dave Shaffer, who runs the center's radio station and free store, said that while the shelter will be closed, the free store will stay open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

Officials at New Life Evangelistic Center are looking for someone to run the shelter, Shaffer said.

"(They) want to get someone who's a good representative for the ministry," he said.

Jerome K. Polk, 38, who used to run the men's shelter and the free store, was arrested at 1:10 a.m. Thursday by Joplin police. He is charged with forcible rape, according to a complaint filed in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Polk remained in custody Monday afternoon at the Jasper County Jail in Carthage. His bond is set at $5,000. He is scheduled for a video arraignment Thursday.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, the girl said she went to the free store after hours to get back-to-school clothing. The preliminary report indicated the girl allegedly was raped at 12:09 a.m. Thursday, according to police Sgt. Curt Farmer.

Polk, who had been in Joplin for three months, had run the men's shelter and free store for two weeks, Shaffer said.

Ray Redlich, assistant director of the New Life Evangelistic Center based in St. Louis, said last week that Polk was a trainee in the organization's two-year training program for people who are homeless. He said Polk was suspended from the training program after the alleged rape.

Brian Hauswirth, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Monday that the department has a record of Jerome Polk. "But it's a closed record, and therefore we can't comment," he said.

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