Monday 29 January 2024

Colorado church sues town over right to use RVs to shelter homeless


A Colorado church is suing the town of Castle Rock after the town said the church's use of RVs to shelter the homeless was a zoning violation.

"Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor homeless with shelter?" Mike Polhemus, lead pastor at The Rock Church, said, reading from Isaiah 58:7.

It's a scripture that the church cites as the "higher code" they abide by, and the reason they're suing the town.

"I couldn't make any money, I didn't have a place to go," said Frederick Krueger.

When Krueger's truck broke down in 2022, he found himself homeless and out of work in the middle of winter.

"All of a sudden, I didn't have any way to do anything, to be honest with you. It was kind of a bad scenario," said Krueger.

His savior came in the form of an RV behind The Rock Church, in Castle Rock.

"A godsend," Krueger said. "It really was."

Since 2019, the church has given shelter to the homeless in two RVs on the back side of their 54-acre property.

"To help those that are struggling and specifically those that want to get on their feet and have had a turn of events," said Polhemus.

Polhemus estimates they've helped about 15 people in that time.

Working with Douglas County, the church housed Krueger in the RV, then helped feed him, fix his truck, and find him a job.

"Been doing it for over a year now," said Krueger.

After a few months in the RV, Krueger was able to move into his own home.

"These guys, they never stopped," said Krueger, "had it not been for them, no one else was gonna do anything." 

But in September of 2023, after years of back and forth with the church, the town of Castle Rock officially determined the use of RVs as temporary shelters to be a zoning violation.

A town representative declined to be interviewed by CBS News Colorado but says the church itself was involved in the drafting of those zoning rules back in 2003.

The church appealed, but in December, Castle Rock's Board of Adjustment upheld the town's decision and The Rock was forced to stop sheltering people there.

"That's the dilemma we're facing," said Polhemus. "We have a staff in the town of Castle Rock who are looking to abide by the code and we are abiding by another code."

The church says it will follow that code even if it takes them to court. They've filed a lawsuit, hoping to overturn the town's decision.

"We felt like we were kind of put in a position where we have to appeal this and hopefully work with our town to come up with a solution," said Polhemus.

As the appeal moves forward, the RV that changed Krueger's life now sits empty.

"I am incredibly grateful and thankful that I made it through, and I sure wouldn't want someone not to be able to say that," he said.

"We've had a single mom with three young children that we weren't able to bring in because of the determination. So, we're trying to adhere to it, but if it becomes a life and death situation, we're gonna do what we need to do to help those who are struggling," said Polhemus.

No court date has been set yet. The church is hoping they can settle this with the town without taking things to court.