April 20, 2014

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Lorain officials say St. Joe’s immediate closure not sought

St. Joseph Homeless Shelter may be closing its doors at midnight Monday  because of disputes with the city over fire codes. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Lorain officials are pushing St. Joseph’s Overnight Homeless Shelter to fix code violations. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

LORAIN — City officials aren’t demanding immediate closure of the St. Joseph’s Overnight Homeless Shelter if it fails today’s fire code inspection by the state fire marshals office, Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Sunday.

Ritenauer said today was an arbitrary deadline by Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland, which has been trying to get the shelter at 317 W. 15th St., to operate continuously from October through April since it took it over in 2010. Lorain officials have issued 30-day occupancy permits.

Ritenauer said the inspection would determine if the state fire marshal concurs with the Lorain Fire Department that the 60-bed shelter lacks a sprinkler system.

“The notion that the state fire marshal is going to come in and say, ‘By midnight tonight, this shelter is closed,’ That’s not the case,” he said.

However, Ritenauer said there are code violations that need to be rectified soon. He said Catholic Charities has known about the purported violations since last year but has “done nothing to repair them.”

John Klee, Catholic Charities senior director, said Catholic Charities has spent about $60,000 on the building since taking it over when the St. Joseph Church closed and has tried to work with Lorain officials. Klee said his organization has an option to buy a building at 213 W. 14th St., and relocate the shelter next October.

The building is owned by Horizon Education Centers, a charter school operator run by Concept Schools, a national charter school operator. The city holds the mortgage on the Horizon property.

Klee said Catholic Charities hoped to run the shelter at its current location for one more year. It is unclear where shelter residents would go if the shelter abruptly closes. The Haven Center, a 68-bed shelter at 1536 E. 30th St., lacks enough beds to accommodate more people, according to Connie Osborn, CEO and president of Neighborhood Alliance, the group that runs the Haven Center.

Ritenauer said one of Lorain’s churches might be able to open a temporary shelter if St. Joseph’s closes. “I’m very sympathetic to people needing a warm place to stay, but it’s got to be a safe place,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.