Thursday evening, the City of Cleveland issued a lengthy statement attempting to justify its recent code-enforcement actions against a west side church that has stepped in to provide shelter for those experiencing homelessness.
On Christmas Eve
, the city's department of Building and Housing (B&H) taped a cease and desist order on the door of Denison United Church of Christ (UCC), advising the church that it would be forced to change its official use — currently as a house of worship and assembly — if it planned on continuing to provide shelter to those most in need.
The city's statement provided a timeline of its actions. It said that while B&H was in contact with the church about necessary requirements to become a temporary transient use facility this fall, the local community development corporation, Westown, alerted them that the church was already providing shelter, i.e., prior to an official review. B&H sent an inspector to the church on Dec. 6.
“On Dec. 20, a violation order was issued by B&H," the statement explained. "The church has 30 days to appeal the order. The City was told by the church it would file the appeal but as of [12/26] has not received it. The church is still welcome to submit a temporary R-1 transient use application, which would give it 180 days to operate its shelter. If the application were rejected because upgrades to, for example, a sprinkler system were not made, the findings could be appealed and the review board could consider a variance.”
The city said that the Division of Fire was also concerned that the church was not meeting fire codes for residential facilities. The statement said that fire personnel met with the church before the cease and desist order was issued. (That order, the one posted to the church door on Christmas Eve, must be appealed within seven days.)
If the church plans to appeal, the city's statement said it will have to employ a fire watch system, in which someone is tasked with keeping an eye out for fires and alerting occupants of the danger, in the interim period. Such a system is already in place.
Denison UCC's Rev. Nozomi Ikuta, when reached by Scene, said she had read the city’s statement but would defer further comment until she’d met with legal counsel.
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