Plans to open a homeless shelter at St. Barnabas Church on Chicago’s Southwest Side stalled Thursday, as some parishioners said they feared sex offenders would not be properly screened out.
The City Council’s Zoning Committee deferred voting on whether a new site operated by Public Action to Deliver Shelter should be allowed at the Catholic parish in the Beverly neighborhood.
Carmen Caruso, whose two sons attend St. Barnabas grade school, said many in the community are concerned.
“We are opposed overwhelmingly and unwaveringly,” said Caruso, a St. Barnabas parishioner since 1985 and a Chicago lawyer.
“They have got to find a better place if they want to perform this charity.”
Caruso said more than 100 people have signed a petition against the shelter.
The plans did not pass muster because they called for a shelter in the church’s cafeteria, said Ald. Virginia Rugai (19th).
“It would violate our Department of Public Health code [against] people sleeping in an area where food is prepared, food or stored,” said Rugai, whose constituency includes the church at 10134 S. Longwood Drive.
Rev. Raymond Tillock, pastor of the church, declined to comment, according to the church secretary.
It is unclear whether the parish would submit a revised plan, said Thomas Moore, zoning lawyer for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
“In many churches, it’s considered part of their ministry to feed the poor and house the homeless,” Moore said.
“When it’s below freezing, to have people out of the cold in a church basement generally doesn’t hurt anybody.”