The Cleveland Division of Fire hit Denison Avenue United Church of Christ with a ‘cease use’ order for partnering with the Metanoia Project to provide shelter for local unhoused people after determining that the church was in violation of multiple city codes, Cleveland.com reports.
The Division of Fire and the Cleveland Building Department notified the church that the notices would be forthcoming on Dec. 19, after a tour of the facility reportedly raised concerns about occupant safety, while the building department said the humanitarian effort constitutes an illegal use of the premises.
Building commissioner Thomas Vanover gave the church seven days to come into compliance, which includes installing a sprinkler system, and appeal.
“According to the city, it is improper for us to allow the Metanoia Project to use our building to provide overnight hospitality. They are telling us to apply to change the use of our building from a church to a shelter,” Pastor Nozomi Ikuta said.
“In essence, this forces us to choose between our identity as a church and helping homeless people,” Ikuta continued. “We want to work with the fire department to resolve any concerns it might have, but we don’t think we should have to stop being a church just so we can help keep people off the street.”
Safety and code violations may be the reasons employed by city officials and departments for opposing what Metanoia calls a “hospitality center,” but some people who have used the facility believe neighborhood residents just don’t want unhoused people in the area at all.
And they’re right.
Cleveland City Councilwoman Dona Brady, who represents Ward 11, where Denison is located, has opposed to the church providing accommodations for unhoused people since the beginning.
Even though this is a matter of not just dignity, but survival particularly during the brutal winter months, Brady allegedly fears that the shelter would add to drug-related issues her ward is facing, UCC.org reports.
Apparently, working toward destigmatizing drug addictions, decriminalizing drug use, and dismantling the so-called war on drugs are not options for the NIMBY city leader—and providing resources and hospitality to unhoused people is not a priority. One would think that if it were, the City of Cleveland would work with the church to make sure Denison’s and Metanoia’s hospitality center was in compliance and able to serve as many people as needed.
“I’m a human being just like they are,” Judith Weihrouch, 36, told Cleveland.com. “We’re not loud. We’re not hurting nobody. And last time I checked, this was a house of God.”