When Pastor Melvin Navarro (below) moved his Healing Wings International Ministries to a new location in Cleveland, Ohio at the site of a former church, he figured there would be no problem establishing his own church there. He’s already a tax-exempt ministry, so getting the city to approve the building as a church should have been a formality.
As recently as last month, he was fundraising for the building hoping to be all set up in time for winter, so that the church could serve as a homeless shelter.
And yet when he applied for a permit this month, which would’ve allowed him to host services in the building, he was denied by the city. He believes the possibility of a homeless shelter is the reason they said no.
According to Melvin, city officials believe organizations such as churches and charities attract homeless individuals to the city.
“Homelessness is a big problem in the city,” Melvin said. “They don’t want any homeless, and therefore they don’t want anymore churches or charitable organizations.”
He attributed that decision to Mayor Joseph Kozuira. But Kozuira says there’s another explanation that has nothing to do with disparaging the homeless or Christians:
Mayor Koziura told The Christian Post in a Monday interview, however, that the city’s zoning board turned down Pastor Navarro’s application because the building was in poor condition.
“The building is in very bad shape and I think that’s why the zoning board did that because the building is not a real good building. This thing has been closed probably 30 years,” he said. “… The city was looking at condemning [it]. So when he went to the board the board voted it down. I had nothing to do with that.”
If the coding violation is indeed the problem, the mayor offered Navarro a method to appeal. It would seem bizarre for any city leader to reject a church when there are so many others in the area. That said, it’s also interesting how cities are plagued by what they perceive as a homeless “problem,” yet when someone wants to do something about it, they stand in the way. At the very least, they’re not offering Navarro more resources so he can assist.
Give him credit, though: More organizations, religious and secular alike, should be more proactive about helping those less fortunate. Even if he hit a setback here, whatever the reason, his success would be good for the community.
(Screenshot via Cleveland19)