EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KTVI) - It’s a church that the homeless see as a safe haven, but now, their pastor could be forced to evict them.
Pastor Barnicio Cureton hopes to expand community service programs, now that he's moved his congregation into an old school building on Cleveland Avenue. He explains, “We purchased it to do clothing, food, be a place where the community can come and find refuge.”
When he bought the building from the East St. Louis School District, several homeless people were already living inside. “I’ve called every shelter, called for help, they’re full, they’re packed,” says Cureton.
But in 30 days, they could all be evicted. On Monday, city inspectors found countless violations, from chains on a doorway to a faulty fire alarm system. East St. Louis Regulatory Affairs Director Robert Betts explains, “Our primary concern is until he gets the place designated as a licensed shelter that the building is structurally safe and sound for the people that are there.”
The homeless can stay if Cureton makes those improvements, but the repairs require funds the church doesn’t have. “As a church, we’ve spent all of our funds on feeding those people, taking care of them, looking out for them, and the purchasing of this building,” Cureton says.
For the people who now call this church home, the news they could be evicted is heartbreaking. The thought of losing her home brought Marcee Santen to tears. She says, “When nobody else wants you, this is it. He’s been kind enough to take us in and keep us here. So it would be really upsetting if they closed it.”
Women like Santen are why this pastor needs community help. He says, “I’m not going to put women on the street that have nowhere to go. I just can’t do that as a man of God.”
If you’d like to help, you can contact Light of Christ Church at (618) 857-2120, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.