A Maryland church known for its efforts to serve the poor faced a $12,000 fine for allowing homeless individuals to camp out on church grounds, but the house of worship has reportedly come to an agreement with county officials that will allow it to forgo paying the massive penalty.
Patapsco United Methodist Church in Dundalk, Maryland, has drawn the ire of local business owners as well as local officials in recent months over its homeless housing policy, with inspectors citing the house of worship for illegal “use of the property as housing units,” the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this month.
The church was initially given a Dec. 18, deadline to stop allowing homeless individuals to camp out on its premises, with officials threatening $12,000 in fines, leaving the Rev. Katie Grover, who runs the church, with a difficult decision. The large fine was an accumulation of $200 per day over a period of more than 60 days, as inspections began last summer.
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On one hand, the church believes firmly in its mission; on the other, $12,000 would have done substantial fiscal harm to the small, 60-person congregation, according to Yahoo! News.
“We’re just trying to do our business, which is caring for each and every human being,” Grover told the outlet before an agreement with county officials was struck. “The best we can do as a church right now is not deny homeless people access to a bench to sleep on.”
Grover also told media she believes allowing the homeless to stay on church grounds fulfills a biblical commandment of helping those in need, though local business owners complained she was harboring “vagrants” and reported alleged behaviors such as public urination by inhabitants on the premises.
Still, she defended the rights of the poor to be treated like human beings.
“As even my friends have told, homelessness can be scary. It’s not aesthetically appealing to anyone,” Grover told the Baltimore Sun. “But there are real human beings behind that issue, people with their own lives and stories. Let’s not just shoo them away.”
Grover said throughout the spat between the church and local officials that she wanted a “fair and just resolution for everyone” — but one that remembers the poor people sleeping outside her church’s doors.
“I’m going to do what God asks me to do,” she said earlier this month. “I’m definitely seeing his hand in this.”
The church was scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 21, but announced in a statement on its Facebook page on Monday that lawyers for the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church and Baltimore County came to a resolution that will keep the church from needing to pay the fine.
“The resolution brokered by these parties asks Patapsco United Methodist Church to educate our unhoused friends about the resources Baltimore County has and point them in those directions,” the statement read. “Though we will not be paying the fine, the work here is not finished. Hopes are continued partnership between Baltimore County and the church to work towards long term resolutions to the issues surrounding the unhoused and the poor, especially in the Dundalk area.”
The statement goes on to say that Patapsco United Methodist Church pledges to continue helping the poor and homeless, though specifics about the brokered deal were not immediately given.
(H/T: Baltimore Sun)
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