Online Staff Report
Jan. 27, the Rockford Fire Department responded to an emergency medical call at the Apostolic Pentecostals of Rockford Church, 840 Mattis Ave., and became aware the church building was being used as an overnight homeless shelter.
Members of the Apostolic Pentecostals of Rockford Church had voluntarily opened their church facility as a night shelter for area homeless when temperatures were regularly below freezing.
Church members transported homeless individuals from the Winnebago County Justice Center, a 24-hour warming center, to the church for an evening meal and would allow them to sleep at the church.
Upon learning the church had begun a ministry for the homeless, the city began working with the church to advise them on the proper steps to take to establish a shelter at this location.
The church often housed 50 individuals a night, many of whom slept on the pews or on the floor.
According to the city, overnight guests had not been screened by offense types to ensure the environment was safe, and the church did not have the proper emergency plan in place to manage an evacuation in the event of a fire.
Representatives from the Rockford Fire Department and the Community and Economic Development Department engaged in conversations with church representatives through February and March to educate the ministry on the steps needed to resolve the life-safety issues and to apply for the needed special-use permit (SUP) to become a homeless shelter.
After six weeks of discussion with city officials, when the church had failed to complete the required steps to comply with the SUP, the city requested they cease operations. At this time, the church has discontinued the shelter as they work to conform to city ordinances.
Todd Cagnoni, Community and Economic Development Department head for the city, said: “City staff worked closely with the church ministry to guide them in the process of applying for the needed permits. The church’s good intentions and the severe winter our homeless population suffered through over the past three months was taken into consideration as we worked through the ordinance requirements and attempted to coach them towards compliance.”
The City of Rockford Human Services Department, in conjunction with the Rockford/Boone/Winnebago Continuum of Care and its various agencies that serve the homeless, met with people staying at the church to evaluate their circumstances and arrange for needed services and housing options.
The Rockford Rescue Mission also participated in the outreach and confirmed they did have space available during this time for single men and reached out to the church to notify them of that fact.
Many of the individuals who were housed at the church did choose to utilize the resources of the Rockford Rescue Mission and are presently housed with the mission.
Posted March 26, 2014