UPDATE (3/28/14) - Faithful America, an online community with over 100,000 members, is taking on the city of Rockford.
The group plans to deliver a petition with over 25,000 signatures on it to Mayor Morrissey on Monday.
"Forcing the Apostolic Pentecostal Church to close its doors to the homeless puts live at risk" says Faithful America representative, Aaron Viles.
In a press release, Faithful America says it wants the city to work with the church to find a way to reopen it as a warming center, instead of threatening legal action.
In a news release, city officials say the church did not complete the required steps to obtain a Special Use Permit to house the homeless. They say the church often housed 50 individuals a night, many of whom slept on the pews or on the floor. They say overnight guests had not been screened by offense types to insure that the environment was safe, and the church did not have the proper emergency plan in place to manage an evacuation in the event of a fire.
“City staff worked closely with the church ministry to guide them in the process of applying for the needed permits. The church’s good intentions and the severe winter our homeless population suffered through over the past three months was taken into consideration as we worked through the ordinance requirements and attempted to coach them towards compliance,” stated Community and Economic Development Department Head Todd Cagnoni.
Church leaders told 'Eyewitness News' when the story first broke that they felt city officials simply didn't want them opening their doors to the homeless. “I could tell by the conversations over the winter that they really did not like us doing what we were doing, but they let us stay open because it was so cold out,” Church Pastor Frederick said.
Some of the homeless men found at the church have been relocated to the Rockford Rescue Mission according to city officials. The church has been asked to stop providing warming center services to the homeless, and the city says the church is complying.