Sovereign Grace Baptist Church

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) -- A Scottsburg church housing a group of homeless people won't be forced to close its doors Friday.

Earlier this week, Sovereign Grace Baptist Church got a letter from the city's advisory plan commission saying it had to change its zoning classification from a church to a homeless shelter. Pastor Derrick Walker was in a panic with just 10 days to make some major changes. He had a meeting with the city Wednesday and said it was a positive discussion.

"They have made a pledge that they don't want to close the shelter, but we have to work toward whatever goals they set for me, and that's all out of my control," Walker said. 

The city has given Walker and the church more time to make certain changes to come into compliance. 

"They did tell me their intention was never to close the shelter, however they also admitted the letter was threatening," Walker said. 

The Scottsburg Advisory Plan Commission sent WDRB News the following statement: 

"It is now, and has always been, the City of Scottsburg's goal to work with Sovereign Grace Baptist Church toward code compliance for the health, safety and welfare of the homeless population in the church. Despite misinterpretations of the letter, sent by me as the Local Building Official, our intent was to establish a working relationship to guide the homeless shelter through what is required by State and Federal Building and Fire Safety Codes. The Scottsburg Fire Chief and I met with Pastor Walker yesterday to discuss a plan of action for bringing the facility into compliance with those codes. Our primary concern is always the health, safety and welfare of our community as a whole."

- April Ramoni, Scottsburg Advisory Plan Commission

The church will need to come into compliance in several areas, and a rezoning might still be necessary. The church will likely have to add showers, a full kitchen and a sprinkler system, among other things.

"I definitely have more hope we are not closing Friday," Walker said. "But that hope is not a full hope yet." 

With an extremely limited budget and just 19 members, the church is now hoping the community steps up to help make the needed changes. 

"People could help with donations that are tax deductible," Walker said. "This is going to come down to money and knowledge, people that have the knowledge to do the services that we need."

The city will do a walk-through in the coming weeks to see what the church has already done and what else needs to be done to bring it into compliance.

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