Kork Moyer, pastor of Still Waters Church, a Grace Brethren church in Pottstown, Pa., was quoted in an article in the Pottstown Mercury about a recent fire that destroyed the tent belonging to a homeless couple in Pottstown. To read the complete article, click here.
Tent fire destroys homeless couple’s shelter
POTTSTOWN — Officials said two people who were living in a makeshift tent in the woods behind a Verizon building on Robinson Street lost all of their belongings Wednesday in a fire.
Pottstown Fire Chief Richard Lengel said it was “a relatively small fire” that destroyed the tent made of several tarps where Bernard Gill and Rhonda Raffle were living behind the former MCI building. … Pastor Kork Moyer, of Still Waters church and the Ministries at Main Street, the mission of which is to help feed and provide shelter to local homeless individuals, said this recent incident shows there is a need for a homeless shelter in the local community.
Moyer said he knows Gill and Raffle and although he understands that there are a number of reasons why people do not like staying in shelters, choosing to forgo using a shelter and sleep in a makeshift tent is dangerous.
“Knowing the people that were out there, what I truly believe is that I don’t think anybody should be out there,” Moyer said. “I do understand that there are all sorts of reasons why people avoid being out in the cold … but it really becomes important to talk them in.
“I think it’s really important that people realize that they are putting themselves at an unbelievable risk, and the fact that there was a fire just underscores that,” Moyer said.
Moyer said four Pottstown churches — St. Paul’s United Church of Christ on North Franklin; Trinity United Church of Christ, Hanover and King streets; Zion’s United Church of Christ, Hanover and Chestnut streets; and St. John’s United Church of Christ on High Street — have taken turns serving as host locations for a mobile shelter for the homeless. On occasions when there is a Code Blue in effect for the area, which means temperatures are so cold they can be hazardous or deadly to people without shelter, the shelter could literally be life-saving.
Shenkel United Church of Christ, 1580 Shenkel Road in North Coventry, has also made efforts to be a shelter location but has been met with opposition from township officials. Just recently, a meeting scheduled for Feb. 26 to discuss zoning issues on the matter was postponed until April 29 after being postponed two times before.
North Coventry Township has determined that without a residential variance, Shenkel UCC cannot have people sleeping at the facility. The church doesn’t want to be bound by those residential use regulations which would limit to 16 the number of people who could stay overnight — for any reason —without a sprinkler system.
Township officials have insisted that the regulations are in place to ensure safety.
Moyer argued that not giving people who would otherwise sleep in a tent an option to seek shelter from the cold could be dangerous, as would have been the case with the recent fire.
“With regards to North Coventry, the argument there is we’re just trying to do our jobs and keep people safe, but leaving people outside is putting them at more of a risk,” he said.
Moyer noted that there are volunteers who agree to stay awake for safety purposes at the various shelter locations.
“What we’re offering (North Coventry) is a service to take their people in, to make the residents, the township, the people less vulnerable,” Moyer said. “That’s just common sense. There are no amount of codes that can stack up against that kind of common sense.”