Friday, January 23, 2009

West Palm Beach church back in court
over homeless shelter

"We've just begun to fight," says attorney Barry Silver.

For years, Westgate Tabernacle Church has been fined for zoning and code violations by the county. Now the church is back in federal court, claiming its religious and civil rights are being violated by Palm Beach County. The lawsuit seeks injuctions to keep the county from levying fines and otherwise interfering with the church's use of its property to help the homeless.

"We just want our rights as a church to help those who are hurting in the community," says Westgate Tabernacle Bishop Avis Hill.

The church has been down this road before in state court, and lost. That case is still on appeal.

Homeless people continue spending the night at Westgate. Church officials say with no other shelters in the area, the county can't afford to close them down.

"They're sending homeless people to Westgate," says Silver. "How can in good conscious the county send people to Westgate and then at the same time fine them for taking in the homeless?"

Read the Palm Beach Post article here.

Update: Check out Chosen Fast's post on this here.


At 5:32 PM, Blogger Michele said...

Is the ACLU helping the church? Do you have previous posts on this? I'd like to know more. Thanks!

At 12:50 AM, Blogger Jacqueline Dowd said...

There are eight previous posts about Westgate and its efforts to shelter the homeless:

■ 2.4.08: Palm Beach shelter's days are numbered
■ 2.10.07: Jury sides with Palm Beach County
■ 2.9.07: Church offers settlement to Palm Beach County
■ 2.8.07: "... such a primitive shelter in such a luxurious county"
■ 2.3.07: Church homeless shelter is crowded but needed
■ 2.2.07: "We're getting pounced on because the county is not doing anything"
■ 2.1.07: Advocates for homeless fault Palm Beach County for inaction
■ 1.31.07: Trial over sheltering homeless interrupted

As far as I know, the ACLU is not involved in this. But I know Barry Silver is a very experienced -- and very successful -- civil rights attorney.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Chaz said...

I lived there until I was able to get back on my feet. Many times I witnessed PBSO and PBPD drop off people to stay there. To my knowledge, the whole county has only 12 beds available for emergency housing of the homeless. Any other beds, you must claim to be a substance abuser in order to find a bed. I refused to lie, to have that on my record, so Westgate was the only place I could go. Bishop Hill recieves nothing from the county but a hard time. Thank God for him.

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