Phoenix pastor disputes City's ruling that church shelter posed 'imminent threat' to occupants

PHOENIX - A Phoenix religious leader is reacting after his church’s homeless shelter was deemed an “imminent threat” by a City fire inspector.

The shelter, located near Southern Avenue and 32nd Street, had issues \, including padlocks on doors, open electrical hazards, and a faulty fire alarm, according to Fire Inspector Brian Scholl.

The building is “incredibly unsafe,” he said.

The City issued the church a notice of violation and immediately shut down the building. That forced the homeless people living there to look for shelter somewhere else.

The Word Center church was operating the shelter; the church’s sanctuary is adjacent to the shelter.

The church’s pastor, Jeffery Burns, said the City is wrong in its assessment.

“Everything was up to code,” said Burns.

The church has the option of bringing the building up to code and re-opening it to the homeless, said Scholl.

Until that happens, one of the shelter’s former occupants is now living in a truck bed behind the church.

“It’s terrible,” said Al Jozen, who was living at the church.

Scholl said the city Neighborhood Services department offered help to people displaced by the shelter’s closure.

Burns said the church's congregation doesn't have the money to fix the issues the City claims exist, however, he said he will continue to protest the decision to shut the building down.

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