A church in Bryan, Ohio, announced Thursday that it had secured a significant victory after city officials had agreed to not pursue criminal charges against the church’s homeless ministry.
The church, known as Dad’s Place, filed a lawsuit against the city in January after officials threatened to file criminal charges if the church did not cease its residential homeless ministry, which began operating 24 hours a day in March 2023 to provide shelter and resources to those struggling in the city. Less than a month after the lawsuit was filed, First Liberty Institute, a law firm representing Dad’s Place, announced that the city had agreed to drop any charges and allow the church to pursue zoning permits necessary for the ministry’s residential use.
“The city of Bryan appreciates the willingness of Dad’s Place to work with the city to resolve the parties’ differences amicably and to ensure that the services provided by Dad’s Place are delivered in a safe manner. The parties continue to work together in a concerted effort to bring the case to a final resolution,” Mayor Carrie Schlade said in a statement.
City officials previously claimed that the police department had to respond on multiple occasions to calls of “criminal mischief, trespassing, overdose… and sexual assault,” telling the church that there were zoning permits needed to operate the ministry but admitted that the requests would not be approved. The church argued, however, that the only times police had been called to the ministry were for homeless people that the department had encouraged to go to the ministry.
The city had ordered on Jan. 16 that all problems needed to be resolved within seven days or Chris Avell, pastor of Dad’s Place, would face criminal charges. The church claimed in the lawsuit that complying with the city’s order was impossible since several of the problems required approval from the state and that seven days was not near enough time.
In light of the recent agreement, the church is pursuing additional safety measures and zoning permits to comply with the city’s laws and agreed to close the residential portion of the ministry until that process is complete, according to the press release. Both parties will continue to negotiate “to find a final resolution to the matter.”
“I am thankful to God, the city, and for everyone who has been praying for this day to come.” Avell said in the press release. “Bryan is my home. I am eager to continue to serve God, my community, and the people I love.”
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