Winter is here and with it another round of headlines which read “City Shuts Down Homeless Shelter.” Every year, these stories pop up all across the country. Their facts are often the same. But the ending to many of these stories can change if more religious and civic leaders become aware of the rights religious-based homeless shelters have under the federal law known as RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Person Act.
This is how the typical “City Shuts Down Homeless Shelter” story tends to go. As temperatures drop, a religious group is moved to open its doors to the men, women, and children looking to shelter from the cold. As word spreads about the ministry, community reaction is mixed. Many are delighted to see the homeless have a place to go. Others simply want the homeless to go away.
After a few complain, municipal officials investigate and then move swiftly to shut the ministry down. The religious group cries foul in the court of public opinion and refuses to shut its doors. The municipality then files suit in a court of law and cites various zoning and building code provisions. Reporters pick up on the compelling human-interest story and press the politicians for an explanation. Some appeal to the rule of law. Others claim they are just looking out for the well-being and safety of the homeless. After all, how safe could it be to sleep in a home… err building, that lacks fire sprinklers and emergency exit doors? It doesn’t matter that ten out of ten homeless would rather take their chances in a heated building than in a parked car, under a bridge, or on a park bench during the dead of winter. The law must be enforced. No exceptions. These shelters are then shuttered after the religious group decides it can no longer fight City Hall. Some run out of the funds to fight. Some have little-to-no idea how to fight—even if they have the will to do so.
Because Dalton & Tomich is nationally known for defending the right of religious organizations to freely use their buildings, we receive calls from all across the country about what can be done, or in many cases, what should have been done. Here are just five things we tell them:
If you are part of a religious organization running a homeless shelter and currently are, or fear you may soon be, facing resistance from City Hall, please contact us. You may also be interested in our free guide highlighting how religious institutions can level the playing field in RLUIPA cases.
Dalton & Tomich, PLC is the national leader in successfully helping churches, other religious institutions and their insurers defend their rights in land use and zoning matters under RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. We have helped clients win cases against municipalities and other local government bodies from coast to coast, with experience serving both as general counsel and special litigation counsel.
In 2015, Hope Rising Community Church experienced extreme opposition, the kind that would force it to close its doors and leave behind the families and youth it was so passionate about reaching. As the lead pastor I felt helpless, inferior and as if I had no […]Read More
Dalton & Tomich’s assistance in our RLUIPA matter has paved the way for our church to continue serving the community and for new churches in the area to thrive in the future. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your stand for religious […]Read More
The Urban Church will be forever grateful to Dalton & Tomich plc for navigating it through a difficult land use issue. Let them give you honest and caring advice because that’s exactly what they’ll do.Read More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC defended a complicated case at a church we insure. Not only is the firm professional, they understand how church business runs and work well within church leadership.Read More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC helped us immensely in the areas of litigation and negotiation! Their professionalism and understanding of church policy helped our church be victorious in a modern day religious land use battle. RLUIPA Religious Land Use Case: Lighthouse Community Church of GodRead More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC serves as General Counsel for the 144 churches within the Church of God in Michigan. The firm provides the legal expertise we need in dealing with the issues that arise during the course of fulfilling our ministry.Read More
I met Dan Dalton during a dark time for our church. He was recommended as the leading RLUIPA attorney in the nation. He demonstrated wisdom, expertise, a gentle nature, a calming inter-relational skill, genuineness, and a humble demeanor, while at the same time, being sharp, […]Read More
Mr. Dalton’s expertise and experience helped us through a very difficult legal journey, ultimately achieving a favorable outcome. His personal interest in helping our church went “above and beyond” just the call of duty. His understanding of both legal and spiritual matters seems to uniquely […]Read More