A church in Delaware is facing fines of at least $100 daily for providing temporary shelter to a blind, homeless single mom and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Victory Church in Dover is apparently violating the county’s zoning regulations by housing Alexis Simms and her daughter in an RV that sits on church property.
Aaron Appling, pastor of Victory Church, explained that he and other church officials had been trying to find a place for Simms for two weeks.
Simms had been diagnosed with lupus, and the disease has left her blind. She is also pregnant. Appling and the church wanted to get her and her daughter off the streets. However, after reaching out to the Dover City Council and various organizations, they still had not found her a place to stay.
To provide Simms a temporary shelter, the church bought a camper and situated it behind the church building.
“We want to stand up for her because there is nobody else to stand up for her,” Appling said.
Unfortunately, some of the church’s neighbors weren’t too happy about it and complained to county officials that there was a third RV within the church’s property.
Having three RVs in a property classifies it as an area for commercial recreational use, according to zoning regulations. This means Victory Church needs to get approval first to have the third RV on its grounds. If it fails to comply, it could be fined $100 up to $1,000 a day for violation of the code.
Kent officials served the church a notice on Tuesday that it needs to comply immediately with the regulations. The county officials also gave the church 48 hours to defend its case and explain why the fines for violating the zoning code should not be imposed.
Appling said the situation made him feel like the church was being punished for helping the homeless.
“When we came up with a solution, they (Kent County) responded to us with a fine,” he said. “If we comply, we have to put these people back on the streets. It’s bad any way you look at it. We feel we are being harassed for doing a good deed.”
In July, the church planned to build small houses for homeless people, but the plan was met with opposition from the residents. Appling told Delaware State News at the time that people in the area had not realized how serious the problem is involving the homeless. The church and those in favor of the housing project staged a protest in the community to raise awareness.
“We’re finding that they just don’t realize how dire the problem is or how grave it really is,” Appling said then. “And so this is helping to expose that, get compassion going, because we believe that people are going to help people.”