Tent City Moves to Church Grounds—- City Cites Zoning Violation

August 13, 2009

The pastor of St. Mary's Church in Champaign says he's hosting the homeless members of the Safe Haven Tent Community, in keeping with the gospel call to help the homeless stranger.

Father Tom Royer says the dozen or so members of Safe Haven are camping out in a secluded spot on church grounds, and will be staying at the church for the next 30 days. He calls Safe Haven an attempt to respond to the needs of the homeless by offering some sort of safety and hospitality.

"They've been pushed from one place to another and this, I think, is inappropriate," says Royer. "I think that we, as a community, should take into account the needs of these people."

But as long as Safe Haven members are living in tents on church grounds, Champaign Zoning Administrator Kevin Phillips says St. Mary's is violating city zoning code. Phillips says he's sent notice to the church that they face possible fines of up to 750-dollars a day if the tent community isn't gone in one week. However, he says if St. Mary's moves the Safe Haven members indoors, the church's Multi-Family Three zoning designation may allow them to stay on an emergency basis.

Story source: AP