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City council members commit to new cold weather plan in wake of possible church shelter shutdown

Posted at 11:47 AM, Dec 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-29 18:21:13-05

CLEVELAND — As we get closer to ringing in the new year, time is running out for those who rely on a local church for shelter.

Denison Avenue United Church of Christ - which now operates as a homeless shelter – was slammed with code violations from the city's Department of Building and Housing as well as the Cleveland Fire Department in the days leading up to Christmas.

The church got that second notice on Christmas Eve, giving it seven days to appeal or be shut down.

Since then, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless says concerned citizens have sent nearly 500 letters to city hall – pleading with city leaders to keep it open.

The church has taken in about 40 homeless people this season after the shelter operated by the Metanoia Project at St. Malachi’s had to reduce its number of beds, but the city says its not up to code to do so.

Officials are especially concerned with a lack of sprinklers in case there’s a fire – and not having hard wired smoke detectors. They also say that the church needs to apply to change the use of the building to operate as a shelter.

The coalition says at least three council members - Matt Zone, Basheer Jones, and Kerry McCormack - have pledged to come up with a community cold weather plan in January.

NEOCH says it does not directly affect UCC Denison’s appeal to continue its operations. It’s more of a long-term plan that will help homeless people in the city in the years to come.

“Part of that plan too with the city council is for them to provide support to nonprofits and churches that are stepping up to fill that gap and I think part of creating a city plan would be to make sure that as we know winter is coming year to year, that we have a plan in place so that we’re not scrambling to find locations for people to sleep,” Molly Martin, Communications and Development Coordinator for NEOCH, said.

The coalition says the church plans to submit their appeal to the city by New Year’s Eve.

RELATED: Cleveland served a local church a 'cease use' letter over code violations as winter nears