RICHMONDVILLE, N.Y.(NEWS10) – For the homeless, warming stations are an essential resource during winter months. A warming station in the Hamlett of Warnerville received a cease-and-desist letter back in November. The church that was operating it met on Wednesday and held a rally in support, just moments before a Richmondville Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing.
Over 75 people attended the ZBA meeting at the Richmondville fire hall to discuss the abrupt closure of the United Methodist Church’s warming station. Chairman of the Board, Steve Swenson, delivering an impactful resolution.
“The warming center does not violate any codes or zoning,” announced Swenson.
Pastor Mary Ella Moore of the United Methodist Church in Warnerville could not be happier about the decision.
“We can open this warming station back up and people that are cold and need a place to stay that’s warm and friendly and safe, they can come to the Warnerville United Methodist Church,” said Moore.
The church began planning for the warming station back in the summer and opened in November. On November 16, the code enforcement officer delivered the order to shut the operation down immediately.
With no other recourse the church hired attorney Fred Mauhs to help sort the matter out.
“The right decision was the easy one. All they had to do was follow the cases, the courts, the Constitution. They did and we can start operating our warming center again,” said Mauhs.
It has been two months since the 10-bed warming station was shut down and the middle of winter is a crucial time for those without homes to have somewhere to go.
“Keeping a place like a warming station open to someone alive is such a small thing,” said Kassie Helgerson.
“It’s a First Amendment right of a religious institution as we were labeled. The good news is that it’s going to open tomorrow or Monday,” said Moore.
As the church continues to navigate through the aftermath, we will continue to follow this story and keep you updated at NEWS10.com.