Church fined, sued for picking up city's slack

Church fined, sued for picking up city's slack

Church fined, sued for picking up city's slack

A city in North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against a church over its ministry to the underserved.

On its property, Faith Hope Love Community Enrichment Ministries accommodates 100-125 individuals from Gastonia and nearby, providing meals, counseling, education, and addiction recovery services to the homeless community.

"We have a lot of tents out here where we give them an opportunity to stay, 'cause in this town, they won't let them stay anywhere," Pastor Moses Colbert explains about the FHL Rescue Mission.

The ministry's vision is "to totally eradicate homelessness in Gaston County and the surrounding areas." But Gastonia's city officials have not been supportive.

"It all started when we got donated two trailers," Colbert reports. "They said, 'You're not zoned to have these trailers on the property.' So, we went down to get the proper license to get the trailers, but they would never allow us to get the license. In the meantime, they started fining us."

The church paid the initial fine, but then the city upped the ante.

"They couldn't justify why they were charging us $54,000 for one day," the pastor tells AFN. "The fines are typically stated in their rules that it's $100 a day fine."

In May, the city sued the ministry for not paying the fines, and Pastor Colbert met with city officials about it in June.

"They told me I need to stick to the business of preaching and let the homeless stuff go," Colbert relays. "I said, 'Well, if we don't do it, then who's going to do it? If we don't do it now, then when is it going to get done?'"

Queen City News reports there have been questions about safety; first responders have been called to the location more than 300 times in one year, and one person has died on the property.

Members of the community, however, who support the FHL Rescue Mission, say the number of homeless on the church's property is a reflection of the city's failure to address mental health and drug addiction; they do not fault the church for its inability to fully address health issues.

A superior judge has reportedly given the ministry until August 7th to get the church property up to code.