What do you get for helping the homeless? Harassment

What do you get for helping the homeless? Harassment

What do you get for helping the homeless? Harassment

A dispute continues between a church and municipality in Ohio.

Dad's Place Church in Bryan, Ohio offers a 24/7 shelter to the homeless and has been doing so for years. But Ryan Gardner of First Liberty Institute says the city has taken a sudden interest in the shelter's fire safety and other issues.

First, it was all about zoning violations, and then they suddenly started having the fire marshal show up and find all these violations.

The truth, he says, is officials do not want the homeless there, and they are looking for ways to ways to keep them away.

Gardner, Ryan (First Liberty Institute) Gardner

"They've been having people overnight for years, and police officials used to bring people by," Gardner relays. "If you think a place is extremely unsafe and possesses such a health and safety risk, would the police really have been bringing people to that place? They're saying suddenly that they need automatic sprinkler systems, and if they don't, that this is just a dire safety situation for people who would otherwise be on the streets with nothing."

The attorney notes, however, that sprinklers are not required for the homeless shelter right next door to Dad's Place. The city officials just keep moving the goal post, creating a "very dangerous life-and-death sort of situation" for the homeless community.

Meanwhile, Dad's Place Pastor Chris Avell reportedly faces jail time for not complying with all the changes.

On May 13th, First Liberty will be back in court and moving for injunctive relief to stop this campaign against Dad's Place.

AFN emailed the mayor's office, the fire department, and the police department for comment and received this response from Mayor Carrie Schlade:

We take no pleasure in doing this. Chris Avell and his attorneys have managed to turn issues of safety and complying with laws designed to keep people safe into a publicity seeking crusade about religious freedom. That's not the reality. We have no interest in restricting anyone's religious freedom. Here's what I and the City of Bryan care deeply about: That the people using Dad's Place Church are safe and have all the protections afforded them by the law.

She claims the city's actions with Dad's Place have led to harassing and threatening voicemails and emails being sent to city offices, including the Bryan Police and Fire Dispatch. Her own children, she says, have also been harassed and threatened on social media.

Gardner retorts that the city "likes to pay lip service to caring about these people," when that is not the case.

"'Publicity seeking' is ridiculous," he responds. "The city is the one that brought this fight to Chris. We were trying diligently to work things out with the city."

"For the city, these people are a problem, and they want them to go away," the attorney adds. "To Dad's Place, these are souls and people with infinite value who are worthy of love and care. You can ask them, and many of them will say, 'If it were not for Dad's Place, I would be dead.'"