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Counseling Center Works to Re-Open After Arson Fire | Crime

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Counseling Center Works to Re-Open After Arson Fire
Crime

LAS VEGAS -- Employees of a local counseling center vow to re-open Tuesday despite damage caused by an arsonist over the weekend.

Arson investigators have determined the fire at the Community Counseling Center early Sunday morning was intentionally set. The question now is, by who? Employees hope surveillance video from a nearby business may offer some clues.

In the meantime, employees are focused on re-opening for their clients. The day after Christmas was supposed to be a holiday for Ron Lawrence. Instead, the executive director of the Community Counseling Center spends this day working for tomorrow.

"When I got up this morning my whole determination was to get this place up and running again and it shall be. It shall be," said Lawrence.

Fire investigators believe an arsonist set fire to the building early Sunday morning. According to employees of the facility that provides substance abuse and mental health treatment, someone cut a hole in the roof and poured gasoline into a therapy room. Investigators recovered rope, a gas can and fireworks at the scene.

Lawrence suspects homeless people he recently removed from the property.

"There were people who got very angry and the way this all turned out is if you're not going to let me live by your house, I'm going to burn your house down," he said.

The homeless frequent the neighborhood near Maryland Blvd. and Sahara Ave. -- in part -- says Lawrence because local churches provide regular meals. But Chyloh Pryor with Christ Episcopal Church tells 8 News NOW, the food bank at his parish serves needy families, not vagrants.

"This church puts itself out there to help these people and we try to handle what we can with the area," said Pryor.

Christ Episcopal too struggles with trespassers and like the Community Counseling Center does not permit the homeless to stay on its property.

"As you can see, someone was setting up an apartment in that corner. Cannot have it. Too much risk involved right now,"said Lawrence.

To ensure the safety of its staff and its clients, the center has hired additional security. Lawrence insists the acts of a few will not disrupt his service of the many.

"That's the spirit of the people who work here."

Lawrence credits the Metro Police department with saving the building. Following a recent sweep of homeless camps in the area, the department agreed to step up patrols. And it was an officer doing just that Sunday morning who spotted the fire.

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