Church facing fine for hosting homeless

I was preparing myself to write a recap of the year that is almost over and then a story came across my facebook feed that changed my mind completely. I read a headline that perfectly answers the question posed by a meme that asks: “There are over 350,000 churches in America. So why are there over 200,000 people sleeping on the streets?” One answer to that question comes via the headline I saw from WSB-TV: Church facing $12,000 fine for letting homeless people sleep on property!

WSB reports, “Rev. Katie Grover found a $12,000 citation attached to a church door when she went to the church one morning recently.
The citation said that [Patapsco United Methodist Church in Dundalk, Maryland] had violated a county regulation that prohibits ‘non-permitted rooming and boarding’ and that the church failed to ‘cease exterior use of property as housing units.’”

Grover says, “We feel, we here as a church, that it’s scriptural mandate, that it’s an imperative to care for the least, the last, the lost, the poor, [and] the hungry.”

Grover’s good deed is not going unpunished. On top of the $12,000 initial fine, that amount will increase by $200 per day if Grover and the members of the congregation fail to evict the homeless people from the property.

The Baltimore Sun reports, the church’s “policy for the homeless is unwritten and conditions are anything but grand. They sleep at times on a bench out front, in a small rectangular yard in the rear, or in a semi-enclosed garden in front of the sanctuary.”

Grover adds that she believes “there’s a spiritual dimension to it, ‘I’m here at a church; I’m safe.’” Adding that she is is following the tenets of her faith, “We’re just trying to do what a church is called to do, and that’s to love people.”

But one neighbor sees things differently. The Sun adds “Chester Bartko, who has owned Shore Produce and Seafood next door for 30 years, says the church is ‘harboring vagrants,’… [and] says he is frustrated by Grover’s ‘stubborn’ insistence that she is ‘doing God’s work’ by sheltering the homeless.”

Grover insists the church will not put up a No Trespassing sign in order to avoid the fine, with Grover asking “Who, then, is welcome to the church?” Nor will she call the police on the homeless for sleeping on the property. However Bartko or another neighbor could, and probably will, call the police if Grover and the UMC do not turn away those with nowhere else to go.

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Darryl W. Perry was a candidate for the 2016 Libertarian Party Presidential nomination, and is currently running a limited Presidential write-in campaign in the general election.

About DarrylWPerry

Darryl has spent most of his adult life as an advocate & activist for peace and liberty. Darryl is an award winning author, publisher & radio/TV host. He is a regular contributor to several weekly and monthly newspapers. He hosts the daily newscast FPPradioNews, the podcast Peace, Love, Liberty Radio, the weekly news podcast FPP Freedom Minute, and is a regular host of Free Talk Live. Darryl is the Owner/Managing Editor of Free Press Publications. Darryl is the CEO of Liberty Lobby LLC. To schedule an interview with Darryl please send an email to editor@fpp.cc or call 202 709 4377
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One Response to Church facing fine for hosting homeless

  1. Michael P Stein says:

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

    A cursory search suggests that the county is not reading its own laws correctly. Section 35-6-101 of the Baltimore County Code, which lists definitions, has the following:

    (d) Boarding or rooming house. “Boarding or rooming house” has the meaning stated in § 101 of the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations.

    (Source: https://www.municode.com/library/md/baltimore_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=ART35BUHO_TIT6REHOLI_S35-6-101DE)

    Going to the zoning regulations found at http://ecode360.com/12100707, a boarding or rooming house is defined as:

    A building:
    1.
    Which is the domicile of the owner and in which rooms with or without meals are provided, for compensation, to three or more individuals who are 18 years old or older and not related by blood, marriage or adoption to the owner; or
    2.
    Which is not the owner’s domicile and which is occupied in its entirety, for compensation, by three or more individuals who are 18 years old or older and not related to each other by blood, marriage or adoption.

    If the church is not receiving compensation, it would not appear to meet the definition. If it is not a boarding or rooming house as defined by the county’s own laws, how can it possibly be an illegal boarding or rooming house?

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