A Church in Maryland discovered a fine for $12,000 attached to their door demanding that the church evict the homeless living on their grounds or pay the fine.
Reverend Katie Grover of the Patapsco United Methodist church in Dundalk, stated that the citation said the church had violated a county regulation that prohibits “non-permitted rooming and boarding” houses, by allowing homeless individuals to sleep on church grounds.
The inspector’s comments were that, “Patapsco UMC failed “to cease exterior use of property as housing units. People were still living in rear of the property under a tarped area.”
Grover knows the homeless people set up camp outside the church, either on a bench in front of the church.
Two men have actually slept outside of the church for the past two years.
Grover feeels it is her Christian duty to allow the homeless to sleep on church property.
Grover stated, “We’re just trying to do our business, which is caring for each and every human being. The best we can do as a church right now is not deny homeless people access to a bench to sleep on.”
If Patapsco UMC does not remove the homeless and opts to pay the $12,000 dollar fine, Grover said that would, “absolutely be a burden” for the small church, which has between 50 and 75 people in attendance at church services.
Patapsco UMC’s operating budget for next year is between $130,000 and $140,000, nearly half of which is earmarked for a new heating system.
A neighbor who lives next to the church, Charles Bartko had this to say, “I want them moved out of here.” Bartko said he saw the homeless pour urine on his tree, killing it.
Grover understands the neighborhood concerns and that her congregation also does not want people urinating in their garden.
Ellen Kobler, Deputy Director in Baltimore County’s Office of Communications, said that “the homeless people have made an encampment on church property.” She said the county defines an ‘encampment’ as any place a homeless person would sleep, including a bench.”
The unsanitary conditions was one of the reasons the county pursued the citation, noting that the nightly presence of the homeless created “continuously unsanitary conditions in a residential area.”
Grover said the inspectors who cited her were very nice and told her she might consider hiring security guards at night to watch over the homeless, but after consideration, she and the inspector’s concluded there is no easy solution for the problem.
Grover says she is quick to remind those complaining that they, too, are children of God.
Grover said, “I’m not trying to be adversarial with anyone. We’re just trying to do what a church is called to do, and that’s to love people. In Scripture, it talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick. Whatever we’ve done to the least of these, it’s as if we’ve done it to Christ himself.”
The church has a deadline of Sunday, December 18, to decide whether to evict the homeless individuals from its grounds or pay a $12,000 county fine. If they comply with removing the homeless, the fine will be dismissed completely.
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