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Hundreds pack council chambers to support church told to cease housing homeless over code violations

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 18:44:59-05

CLEVELAND — Emotions ran high at the first Cleveland City Council meeting of the new year Monday evening.

Hundreds of people were packed shoulder to shoulder in council chambers to show their support for the city’s homeless population.

This show of support comes after the Denison Avenue United Church of Christ is currently appealing a cease and desist order from the city that could keep them from housing the homeless in the future.

Activists said as temperatures drop, so do the number of available beds for people living on the streets of Cleveland.

“There are over 150 people that we know aren’t going to go to existing shelter,” Molly Martin said, “So how do we provide support?”

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is scrambling to find solutions after the church was issued that order from the city just days before Christmas. The order was issued over code violations at the church, including a lack of sprinklers and hard-wired smoke detectors.

“A church should be able to provide the service under their protected right as a church,” Martin said.

Martin said there has been push back from Ward 11 councilwoman Dona Brady about providing shelter at UCC.

“How is the conflict with this council person kind of disrupting this community agreement that we should have where there’s more collaboration and support?” Martin asked.

Reverend Nozomi Ikuta said everyone deserves shelter from harsh weather conditions.

“This speaks to creating a culture of compassion where we understand that certain things are basic human rights,” Ikuta said.

Other Cleveland City Council members acknowledge the need for a collaborative plan to combat homelessness.

“No matter where you are, our city cannot grow if we don’t look at all people and support them,” Basheer Jones said.

Jones, of Ward 7, shared his own experience of homelessness for a period of his childhood.

“It was such a struggle. You didn’t know how you were going to get food the next day,” Jones said, “Didn’t know where you would be able to lay down, and there’s people who are dealing with that every single day.”

Reverend Ikuta is calling for empathy from elected officials in hopes of keeping her church’s doors open to those in need.

“Honestly how many of us have the kind of reserves that we could say for sure that if something happened to our job, or a medical crisis, that we ourselves are not just a few paychecks of being homeless ourselves?” Ikuta said.

News 5 has contacted Ward 11 Councilwoman Dona Brady for comment multiple times, but we have not heard back.

The Denison United Church of Christ will appeal that cease and desist order from the City of Cleveland during a hearing on January 22.