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'I try to help anybody I can' | Gastonia pastor using church as shelter told he's violating city ordinance

According to the City of Gastonia, The Gastonia Fire Department and fire inspectors have responded to multiple calls to the property.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Some of Gastonia’s homeless individuals may have to find a new place to live. 

“We received a letter from the city saying we need to cease the shelter,” Pastor Moses Colbert said.  

Pastor Colbert has been using his church, Faith Hope and Love, as a shelter to help people on the streets. 

“I’m no better than anybody else, that could’ve been me so I try to help anybody I can, you know we’ve served probably 20,000 people, we’ve served over a million meals,” Colbert said.   

RELATED: Charlotte woman details hardships of homelessness

For years, Colbert has housed and fed the homeless off and on. He said this isn’t the first time the city has asked him to find a better alternative.  

“I'd much rather ask for their forgiveness than ask for their permission, 'cause I’m not getting their permission,” Colbert said. 

According to the City of Gastonia, The Gastonia Fire Department and fire inspectors have responded to multiple calls to the property located at 602 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. City staff has met on several occasions with Pastor Moses Colbert to inform him that the church was built as a church and can only be used for that purpose, which does not include overnight housing. 

The city said due to zoning regulations, shelters are not permitted by right in the city. Also, Section 319 of the 2018 North Carolina Fire Code specifically mentions the requirements for operating a shelter for homeless citizens. The city said Pastor Moses has been notified numerous times to cease operations immediately in the church until he has obtained zoning clearance, satisfied the NC Fire Code, or applied for a change of use. 

Still, Colbert said he’s disappointed to see community pushback.  

“I see the need in this community for what we’re doing, if we could just get a few people on board,” Colbert said.  

Until then, people like Marcus Witherspoon are grateful to call Faith Hope and Love his home.  

“This has been like my family for the last three to four months,” Witherspoon said. “You remember stuff like this, you appreciate what you got going on so much more, you know what I’m saying, this has been a wonderful experience.” 

The City of Gastonia also said they are aware of the issues related to homelessness. 

"The City of Gastonia is aware of the issues related to homelessness," a city spokesperson said, in part, in a statement to WCNC Charlotte. "We are working diligently with our faith communities, non-profit organizations, community partners, and other municipalities to find solutions. Recently we announced an Emergency Rental Assistance Program for residents who need help with emergency assistance. There are also other resources that homeless citizens can take advantage of if they need assistance, like the Emergency Utility Assistance program for residents of Gastonia."

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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