Oak Lawn Churches Concerned About Proposed Homeless Shelter Ordinance

CHICAGO (CBS) — Churches in Oak Lawn are concerned about a proposed ordinance that they say could hamper their ability to continue to house the homeless.

There are six churches in Oak Lawn that house the homeless four nights a week.

Larry Deetjen, Oak Lawn Village manager, says the proposed homeless shelter ordinance came about in Sept., after area residents became worried about their safety when Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church opened a shelter.

Under the proposed ordinance, all homeless shelters would have to be licensed, which is not required of them now. They would also have to comply with building and zoning codes and turn over the names of people staying in the shelters to the village.

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Pastor Peggy McClanahan of Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ says while current shelters would be grandfathered in, it would be difficult for new shelters to open.

“One of the most problematic, actually, for the shelters is the requirement that everybody would have to have sprinkler systems, which is tens of thousands of dollars,” McClanahan said. “Any new shelters would have a whole raft of requirements they have to meet, which are pretty prohibitive.”

Deetjen says the safety of area residents is the main factor behind the proposal.

The Oak Lawn Planning Commission will consider the proposal Monday evening, and the village could vote as early as next week.

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