Homeless welcome at church, but health issues preclude overnight stays

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As the moderator of the board and the interim pastor of Central Christian Church in downtown Kalispell, we are writing this letter to the editor to respond to the anonymous person or persons who left some photos and scripture quotes in our mailbox, regarding the signs we have had to post on our building, which say “No Overnight Sleeping.” We acknowledge your concern regarding these signs and would like to take this opportunity to tell you what you do not know about why they are posted.

Our building has several alcove-type entrances along Third Street East. During the past several years, homeless folks used them to sleep overnight, which afforded them some scant shelter from the weather. As time went on, the steps and porches became more and more crowded with homeless people. At that point, we were contacted by the City/County Health Department, regarding the lack of sanitary facilities outdoors. Not only were some urinating in the alleyway between our building and the county library, but also defecating, a serious problem to public health. So, we were compelled to post the signs you have seen, since we do not have the personnel or finances to make our facilities available to overnight campers on a continuing basis. Folks still sit on our steps during the daytime, and they are welcome to do so.

Also, we think you should know that we take very seriously Christ’s command to care for His sheep. Our building is host to the Feeding the Flathead dinners anywhere from nine to 12 nights every month. In addition to our own Sunday worship services, the Hope City Church ministers to those who are currently down and out by using our fellowship hall for their worship services and meal preparation each week. And for the past 10 years, our congregation has prepared a meal for the Ray of Hope shelter each month, probably having served a total of somewhere around 2,400 meals in that time, as a conservative estimate. We have a continuous history of financial and volunteer support for almost every other helping agency in the Kalispell area, as well as others around the state and nation.

We hope you see this letter and will understand our position. We also hope that you will have the courage to make yourself known, so that perhaps together we can discuss possible solutions to the homeless problem in our community.

Wood is moderator at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kalispell and Naff is interim minister.

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