Lorain Homeless Shelter Faces Closure

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LORAIN -- A shelter that has served the area's homeless for years is in jeopardy of closing on Monday, which could put dozens of men, women and children out in the cold.

Lorain city leaders say it is an issue of safety.

Saint Joseph Church in Lorain closed three years ago, but Catholic Charities continued to operate the homeless shelter there. The shelter provides overnight stays for 50 men in the church and another 16 women and children in the rectory building.

From October to April, the shelter is like a temporary home for those with nowhere else to go.

"This is a safe place for them to be at night instead of sleeping in an abandoned house or building," shelter worker Joe Delgado said.

The state fire marshal is to inspect the shelter Monday and may close it down. The old buildings do not have sprinklers, which is a Lorain city fire code violation.

Until now, the city has issued monthly occupancy permits allowing the shelter to stay open. City leaders are questioning whether they should continue to do that.

"The city has a liability if something were to happen at the shelter. So we have asked for a consultation with the state fire marshal," Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said.

Catholic Charities has put fire prevention measures in place, including smoke detectors and fire extinguishers throughout the shelter. But putting in a sprinkler system is deemed too costly.

"Our position is we want to find safe places for the homeless to be. My view is, just because you're homeless doesn't mean that you should be in a facility that is not safe," Mayor Ritenauer added.

But, those at St. Joseph's hope the fire marshal does not shut down the shelter and allows it to operate through the winter months.

"Let us finish out the rest of this year and let them do improvements on the other building so we can move in there," Delgado said.

Catholic Charities is working with the city to convert a former daycare center into a new overnight shelter, but it is not expected to be operational until next fall.

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