A church in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia is asking the Department of License and Inspection to allow it to continue taking in homeless people. Earlier this week L&I issued a cease-and-desist order to the Hope Outreach Ministry Church of Christ because its building was not up to code.
Since last September the church had been housing 15 to 25 men a night on its upper floor, where there are no sprinklers and only one exit. The pastor of the church is asking the city to allow her to operate a shelter while she brings the building up to fire standards. She now has a pro-bono lawyer to help her: John Grogan with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Grogan says the church is performing a valuable service to the city, but L&I has not been forthcoming to assist.
“This act of refuge, providing a place where people can come, is a direct expression of the faith of these people – it is their faith in action,” Grogan says. “It’s not a social service agency, it’s not a government program, it is a church in action. They have taken steps, they will continue to take steps to improve safety. They want the city to work with them on that, not simply shut them down.”
The License and Inspection Commissioner has said she will work with the church to get the necessary permits. Area ministers have come forward to critique the city for not accommodating a faith-based organization.