By Jim Hagerty
Members of a Rockford church who claim they were unjustly forced to shut down a homeless shelter have called a press conference to deliver a petition to Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) at City Hall at 11 a.m., Monday, March 31, urging him to re-open the facility.
According to members of Apostolic Pentecostals of Rockford, 840 Mattis Ave., Rockford, the city forced the church to shut down the shelter, denying dozens of homeless residents a haven from brutal winter weather.
The petition, organized by Faithful America (faithfulamerica.org), reads as follows:
“Forcing the Apostolic Pentecostal Church to close its doors to the homeless puts lives at risk. Please direct city officials to work with the church to find a way to reopen at night instead of threatening legal action.”
City officials say the church was warned that the facility did not comply with safety requirements to be used as a homeless shelter and it would need to obtain a special-use permit to operate as such.
Leaders say the city began working with the church beginning in late January, when the Rockford Fire Department first learned the building was housing the homeless. According to the city, church members were transporting individuals from the warming center inside the Winnebago County Justice Center, feeding them a meal and allowing them to sleep in pews and on floors.
After six weeks of discussions with the city, the church was asked to stop allowing overnight services.
The case became public the weekend of March 22-23, when it was featured in a story by WIFR-TV, one Morrissey said sent an incorrect message that the city does not support the homeless community.
“Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Rockford had numerous discussions with the city about the shelter and, as we know, for a church to operate a homeless shelter they must do so under a special-use permit,” Morrissey said before the Rockford City Council began its Monday, March 24, meeting.
According to the city, the church, pastored by Dave Frederick, applied for a special-use permit, but did not meet the requirements under local ordinances.
“City staff worked closely with the church ministry to guide them in the process of applying for the needed permits,” Community and Economic Development Department Head Todd Cagnoni said. “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.”
After the permit was denied, the city’s Human Services Department, Rockford/Boone/Winnebago Continuum of Care and the Rockford Rescue Mission evaluated needs of several individuals who were utilizing the shelter and arranged for many of them to seek services through the mission, the city stated in a release.
Posted March 28, 2014