City officials in Elgin, Illinois, who chose to close a shelter for the homeless during an icy winter, are being sued by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a pro-family, civil liberties defense organization.
The Hope, Encouragement, Love, Prayer, and Salvation ministry (H.E.L.P.S.) was forced by city officials to leave its location recently inside the Family Life Church. Lack of permits and code violations were cited as the reasons for making the ministry move. H.E.L.P.S. provides food, counseling, and other means of support for the local homeless.
The ministry was inspected in 2005. Elgin officials told H.E.L.P.S.’s founder, Pastor Angelo Valdes that the ministry didn’t have the necessary permits and zoning permission to operate. Although the city manager told Valdes that he could apply for a conditional use permit, the chance of getting one was a “million to one.”
H.E.L.P.S, according to ADF, tried to pay an application fee for the conditional use permit, and the application fee had originally been quoted at $750. According to ADF, H.E.L.P.S was, at the time of the attempted application, told the fee would be $1,320. Valdes claims he was told the ministry could continue to occupy the building until the application process was complete.
On September 26, however, the shelter for the homeless was forced to leave its location after city officials allegedly found violations that had not been found earlier. The city required the violations to be fixed in three days, so in essence, the ministry had to leave. The city also refused to hold a hearing on the matter, so the ministry did not have a location to help the homeless immediately.
“It is truly shameful that a ministry whose sole purpose is to help the less fortunate, is being forced out on the street….particularly during the winter,” commented John Mauck, an ADF-allied attorney of the firm, Mauck and Baker LLC in a press release on the ADF website. He called the actions of the city officials, “the cruelest form of bullying,” and said the actions “cannot be permitted to continue.”
Since the homeless shelter was closed by city officials, the ministry now ministers at a camp 20 miles from Elgin at other churches, or on the bus the ministry owns.
Mauck took note that Elgin officials took the issue of its agenda, and city council has not had a vote on the issue. He said he does not know if there will ever be a vote. He noted that since then, many homeless people in Elgin have been left in the street, and the bus the ministry owns has to be run all night to keep people from freezing.
The lawsuit asks that the homeless be permitted to enter the church again immediately. It also asks that Elgin’s city officials vote on the matter of the homeless shelter it closed.