Tent fight: Where will homeless in WPB stay?

By Allison Bybee email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Palm Beach County officials say a tent near Westgate Tabernacle Church is violating code. Because of that, starting soon, the church must pay fines in upwards of $1,000.

Update, TUE 9:20 AM: A local church is fighting the county and protesting homelessness. How are they doing this? Sleeping outside to prove a point.

The church is fighting the county and others are backing their decision. The normal 75 woman and children and 50 men are staying in the tent Monday night. Along with all of the church staff, a local attorney and a staff assistant to Congressman Hastings. They all say they want to bring attention to the homeless problem in Palm Beach County.

Bishop Avis Hill said, "There is a tremendous need here in Palm Beach County with the economy as it is with as sluggish as it is with people losing their apartments and their jobs. We're getting more and more women and children and that is the reason why we have the men in the tent."

Congressman Alcee Hastings Staff Assistant Dan Liftman said, "The Bishop is trying to do something here, and I feel the Commissioners are saying, 'No, go, get out of here.'"

Security staff guard the tent all night. One of them says the church is filled to the brim inside and out, and they cannot shut this tent down. Dozens will have nowhere to go.

Church members say they are confident they can work something out with County officials.

Previously: Palm Beach County will start fining Westgate Tabernacle Church $10,000 a day if it doesn't take down its tent.

The church's response: Threats won't work.

The church put up the tent recently as an answer to the growing homeless problem in Palm Beach County. Right now, about 55 men sleep in the tent every night. Another 50 women and children stay in the church.

Church leaders say they will keep the tent up until the county gives homeless people a place to sleep. "The need is here, and, as long as the need is here, God is gonna keep us here," states one church official.

Benjamin Quigley, who's homeless, desribes, "You see how the storms get. You know we'd be poured on. We'd be trying to get in abandoned houses or something just to stay dry, so we don't get sick. I mean, it's a big problem."

Westgate plans to hold a peaceful protest Monday night. Several church groups will come sleep in the tent to get a first hand look at what it's like to be homeless.