The Patapsco United Methodist Church has been fined $12,000 for allowing homeless people to sleep on its lawn in Dundalk, Maryland (video below).
"I showed up Wednesday morning to find a citation on the door that said we're going to be fined $12,000 and have a court date because we do have unhoused homeless people sleeping outside the church at night," the Rev. Katie Grover told WMAR.
Grover says the homeless people feel safe on the church grounds.
"We feel we here as a church that it's scriptural mandate, it's an imperative to care for the least, the last, the lost, the poor and the hungry," Grover said.
Chester Bartko, who has a business next to the church, countered: "We have greenhouses and we sell flowers and shrubbery, and the homeless started camping right next to our retail sales area."
Bartko said he has been threatened by homeless people who have also urinated on his apple tree, which he has made the public aware of with a sign.
"I want them moved out of here," Bartko told WBFF.
"I can’t control who sleeps here at night unless I’m here all day and all night," Grover said.
Bartko, who has notified Baltimore County officials, said, "The county and state has facilities for homeless people. They shouldn’t be here living like this."
According to a 2015 report by the Maryland Human Services Agency, Baltimore County had 745 homeless people, but only 450 of them were sheltered.
The county first warned the church in June about unlicensed rooming and boarding.
"They're not paying us rent to board here, so I don't know how that is defined," Grover stated.
"If the church won't conform to community standards, I mean what else is left," Bartko said.
"The best I feel that we as a church can do is just be a place of refuge," Grover insisted.
The church is due in court on Dec. 21, reports WMAR.
If the church has to pay the fine, it may not be able to feed the poor and may have to shut down.