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City of Elgin Officials Freeze-Out Ministry to the Homeless

Complaint Filed in Federal Court to Re-Open Center City Homeless Shelter

 

Contact: Andrew Schadegg, 312-422-1333, drew@tcpr.net

 

ELGIN, Ill., Jan. 17 /Christian Newswire/ -- On February 1, a Federal Court will hear a Complaint filed by the Hope, Encouragement, Love, and Prayer leads to Salvation Ministry (HELPS), in order to re-open a Salvation Army type homeless shelter at the Family Life Church on 270 East Chicago Street in Elgin. The shelter was forced to vacate the church in October 2006 after the city threatened heavy fines against the church, claiming that a zoning permit was required to allow homeless people to sleep in their building. After a full hearing before the Elgin Zoning Board, HELPS obtained unanimous approval to continue its services to the homeless on November 1. The hearing included testimony from seven Elgin pastors and social service workers about the need for the program at that location and received no opposition from any area residents. Formal city council approval of the unanimous Zoning Board recommendation was scheduled for November 29. However, the matter was removed from the agenda without the consent of HELPS, and city officials refused to say who authorized the removal or if the city council will ever vote on the Conditional Use Permit Application.

 

As a result many homeless are being deprived of basic human needs, sleeping on the street, the HELPS school bus, or in makeshift arrangements at various Elgin Churches. Others have returned to drug and alcohol abuse due to the removal of the Christian counseling and support system provided by HELPS.

 

The complaint filed, recounts the struggles of one man, a Vietnam Veteran named Frank Cherrye who stayed with the HELPS ministry but was forced onto the streets in October.  He went to another shelter in Elgin, but was denied access because he could not prove a prior Elgin address.

 

John Mauck, of Mauck & Baker, is the legal representative for Family Life, HELPS and Cherrye. He explains that "the goal of this lawsuit is to get the shelter back up and operating as quickly as possible. People are hurting now. Jesus said that when he returns he will categorize every person based on how we treated the hungry, thirsty, those needing shelter and clothes, the prisoner and the sick. How do we want to be treated by him? We hope Elgin will not fight this lawsuit but will join with our clients in showing mercy to the desperately poor."

 

In recent years, Elgin's city planning commission and city council have been working to revitalize the area of the city where the shelter was formerly operating. The inconsistencies that have surfaced, have led some to speculate about the city's motives in delaying the approval process for the ministry shelter.

 

Pastor Bob Whitt of the Family Life Church states, "For a place that has been known as the 'City of Churches,' it would be very sad if they are preventing this much needed shelter because it might hinder the economic development of the city. This deeply concerns me and it deeply concerns God."

 

A COMPLETE COPY OF THE COMPLAINT IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

 

Contacts for the Media

John W. Mauck, Mauck & Baker, Attorney for H.E.L.P.S.: 312-853-8709

Robert Whitt, Senior Pastor of Family Life Church, 847-717-4878 (Ext. 10)

Andrew Schadegg, TC Public Relations: 312-422-1333