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City Says Denison UCC Can Continue To Shelter The Homeless This Winter

The front entrance to Denison United Church of Christ

The homeless shelter at Denison United Church of Christ will continue operating through April.

The decision for a continuance from the Cleveland Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals Wednesday comes after the church received a cease use notice from the city in December.

The church can remain open through the rest of the winter but will need to provide plans to correct fire code violations listed in the notice by April 15. The cited violations, which the church appealed, included a lack of fire extinguishers, exit signs, sprinklers and a fire alarm system.

Many of the changes, such as the installation of fire extinguishers and exit signs, have already been made, according to Pastor Nozomi Ikuta. The church will also continue a nightly fire watch program to ensure safety for those spending the night.

“I think the fact that we were granted the continuance was based on several factors, not the least of which was the existence of the fire watch,” Ikuta said.

Denison has been acting as an overflow shelter for the Metanoia Project's St. Malachi shelter since last year.

The church is working with a licensed architect to come up with a plan for improvements beyond the changes already made, Ikuta said. And Metanoia plans provide more space at new locations around the city next winter, Ikuta said, which could reduce the number of homeless people seeking shelter at the church.

“We anticipate that the load next year will be reduced because Metanoia has been working very diligently to implement their vision of having multiple smaller sites,” Ikuta said.

Homeless advocacy organizations have also called on the city to create a cold-weather plan to help meet the need for shelter and resources in the winter months.