Plano Is Threatening to Close a Women's Shelter Because It Shelters Too Many Women [Updated]

Categories: Legal Battles

city-of-plano-seal.jpg
City of Plano
The city of Plano is threatening to shut down Agape, a women's homeless and domestic violence shelter in Plano, over zoning violations.
See update at bottom.Agape is a Christian organization that lends crisis housing support to women, their children and unaccompanied children in need. They provide shelter to homeless women and children, as well as community ministry and counseling. They operate out of four residential homes as Household Care Facilities, according to the city of Plano.

But a Plano city ordinance decrees that no more than eight people, and two caregivers, reside in a single home. And because Agape facilities are in a residential home, the number of women and children being housed, plus Agape members, often exceeds that limit. The City of Plano issued a cease and desist order to Agape, with the promise to close its doors if Agape does not comply.

Agape has cried foul: Liberty Institute and attorney Kirte Kinser have threatened to sue the city on behalf of Agape, saying Plano is in violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the constitutional first amendment.

Agape representatives could not be reached for comment, but their website stresses that women's domestic violence and homeless shelters are currently full and struggling to meet demand. This includes Hope's Door and Peaceful Oasis, which can each only accommodate 22 women and children at a time.

The city of Plano has said that several complaints on code violations prompted the cease and desist, and that the Property Standards Department is currently investigating the allegations.

"The city of Plano values the outreach of Agape ministry in the assistance they provide for women and children in crisis," Plano spokesman Steve Stoler said in a statement. "The city has been in contact with the Agape legal counsel and clarified there is not a ban on counseling and ministry services as long as they are complying with code requirements."

The Agape legal team has delivered a demand letter to the city of Plano in response to the housing cease and desist. Agape plans to move forward with legal action if the city does not drop the ban by noon on Thursday.

Update, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.: The City of Plano has rescinded its original letter to Agape, which had ordered a cease and desist of activities.

"The letter [from City of Plano] should not have been sent," said media spokesman Steve Stoler. "We're okay with them doing what they're doing as long as they're following city ordinances."

Stoler was adamant that the City of Plano never issued a ban on Agape's activities, even though Agape used the word "ban" to describe the notice from the city. "Everybody seemed to make it sound like there was a ban in place, and that's just not true ... the city never banned them from doing anything. What Liberty [Institute, Agape's legal team] is saying is that the city is banning them from doing activities there. There is no ban, there was never a ban in place."


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34 comments
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

If "freedom of religion" is an absolute shield to regulation and laws, then please explain why Warren Jeffs is in jail.

roo_ster
roo_ster

If they want to operate a big azz shelter they need to do it where such activity is appropriate.

Just because you are running a christian based charity does not mean you ought not be neighborly.

MattL11
MattL11

"But a Plano city ordinance decrees that no more than eight people, and two caregivers, reside in a single home."


This ordinance is, on its face, designed to prevent Catholic families from moving to Plano. Just horrible. 


On a more serious note, Plano people are the worst. I should know; my parents are two of them.  

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

That's why people moved out there in the first place--to escape big city problems like crime, the uninsured, domestic abuse, and drugs. Ok, except for the drugs. It's worth the drive for primo grade heroin. You can ship the uninsured down to Parkland, but harder to round up the abused moms and kids.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

The city of Plano appears to have VERY LITTLE compassion addressing constructive help for peoples with issues/problems; it's always been that way! I am a 30+ year resident, and they are more concerned with you parking with one tire on your own grass, than they are with constructive solutions.   Hell man, the Property Standards guy drove down my street like 10 times yesterday; make him do something constructive if he's bored!

mommatx
mommatx

ok so I live a couple of houses down from this "Shelter". ( Sorry this is going to be a long one)  Please let me elaborate. ( and I am going to filter myself hard) The woman that is in charge of this charity is pretty inconsistent in what she tells all of us.  first of all none of us on this street or any other that i have found were ever alerted to a homeless shelter being set up in a house on our block.  The way we found out....random knocks on the door at midnight and 2 am...interesting looking people " is this the homeless shelter?".  The neighbors on either side of this house had issues with kids coming in their back yards, things being gone,etc.  She told one neighbor that it was a counselling house, not a shelter,  another that it was a church, and on and on.. this is filed with the city of Plano and it is called a " house hold care facility".  I called the city of plano and spoke with several incredibly annoyed people, that said  " they do not have to tell anyone, the city of plano has no laws to say that anyone has to be notified.  In other words TOUGH COOKIES lady, thanks for calling.   Did I mention that several of the City of Plano council contribute to this woman and her charity?

Anyone from here on our street that has called in has been labeled "crazy" and called a trouble maker.   Trust me Plano has been MIGHTY Shifty on all of this.   They even sent my neighbor a cease and desist order for her lodging complaints. HOW IS THAT EVEN Legal?


She said that she only had x number of people living there.   That it would be all women and children..   She had at least 10 there,  by city of plano ordinance :

A dwelling unit that provides residence and care to not more than eight persons, regardless of legal relationship, who are elderly; disabled; orphaned, abandoned, or neglected children; victims of domestic violence; or rendered temporarily homeless due to fire, natural disaster, or financial setbacks, living together with no more than two caregivers as a single household.  Where applicable, a household care facility shall have appropriate licensing and/or registration by the State of Texas.  (ZC 2009-09 & 2004-15; Ordinance Nos. 2009-6-9 &  2004-9-18)


Oh and she was supposed to have a councilor on site living on the premise. That Councilor was the poor grandmother of these poor kids and the mother of the mom of some of the people living there. No training, no licence, and not really the criteria of what she said she was doing there.  I felt really bad for the people being shuffled in and out of there.  Oh also the "homeless" people,  they had to pay rent......



Also this homeless shelter is less than 2 houses from a public library and smack dab between a high school and an elementary school. On the State of Texas Statues website the following can be found

SUBCHAPTER B. SHELTER FOR HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS

Sec. 244.023. RESTRICTION. Unless municipal consent is granted under Section 244.025, a person may not construct or operate a shelter for homeless individuals within 1,000 feet of another shelter for homeless individuals or a primary or secondary school.

Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 1253, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.


They stipulate that the measurement is property line to property line, guess what, it's less than that to the highschool. City of plano's response.,  No one seemed to know who would measure that and that honestly they had never heard of it.  

I spoke with 5 different departments in one day....no one could help me.  the response to my neighbor that has been told she cannot complain any more " that doesn't exist". 



I have a buddy who is a camera man for a spanish news station. He did me a big solid and   His crew came out an investigated.   even interviewed the people that were sheltered there and they ratted this woman out. Suddenly the city of plano had to shut her down.


Please understand me and my fellow neighbors are nice people, with little children and we work hard.  We honestly wouldn't have had a problem with a shelter for homeless kids that have graduated and somehow made it into college and need a place to stay to complete their education, for a small family to live there, heck we would all take them food, run them to the doctors, do what we could to help.   What she did is SO not that.  It was miss managed, misrepresented and just flat out lies. 


I could go on and on about this but honestly I know you all have better things to do than listen to my rambling.  If you did bother to read all this know that both the woman in charge and the city of plano are both to blame here.  The ones that suffer are these poor people that thought they were getting help only to have that yanked away, and this neighborhood.   Bad Form all around......  Thanks for listening, and if you live in plano, do what i do now and keep and eye on the city council agendas and meetings....

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@mommatx


We have Section 8 properties basically enclosing us on two sides; and man O' man, if you don't lock it down baby-IT'S GONE!  You name it, bikes, grills, stereo's, lawn furniture, etc. 

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb topcommenter

I guess red state compassion ends when a little inconvenience attains.

It's ok. Shuffle off to church and absolve yourself.

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

Plano has some serious first world problems. Have you all considered getting Dr. Phil on this case?

wcvemail
wcvemail topcommenter

@ozonelarryb

I believe you meant to post this in the general thread, not as a reply to MommaTx, since you obviously did not read her post.

Lorlee
Lorlee

@kergo1spaceship Please don't paint with such a broad brush.  I have lived next to a Section 8 house for 15 years -- the tenant is a wonderful neighbor.  It isn't Section 8 -- it is the individual tenant. 

lebowski300
lebowski300

Jesus Fucking Christ. Everything is not a religious freedom issue.

JackJett
JackJett

@lebowski300  Probably more of tax exempt issues under the guise of religious freedom.


Yet, I love the first line in this story and I think The Agape Christians would be a great name for a band.

JFPO
JFPO

Too bad the city itself can't assist an organiztion like this. I guess there's not much left over after all millions given away to the likes of Toyota.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@JFPO


That is exactly what I was thinking.......Millions to Toyota, and not enough shelters-crime.

lebowski300
lebowski300

Yeah, what civic problems did high paying jobs ever solve?

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

@ jfpo: in February of this year Plano released its lien for unpaid taxes on a building to assist Agape in acquiring the residence for additional housing

debilwootem
debilwootem

Price of the additional house Agape bought was $93,562.51 sold to Agape for $8,893.21. Taxpayers just ate $84,669.30 for Agape.

NewsDog
NewsDog

The easy joke is about the 'Christians' in Plano not being very Christian.

The reality is there are some serious countering issues at play here. Hope a good and beficial solution can be worked out.

Planoian
Planoian

Maybe Agape and the Liberty Institute can move the residences onto church property and expand them to better accommodate the need.  If they are willing to spend the money required to fight a legitimate city ordinance, then maybe that money would be better spent helping Agape relocate or add new dwellings.  Just a thought.  Being litigious is not in anyone's best interest in this case I do not believe.

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

Isn't the word litigious just another name for "fighting for your rights"?

beenthere
beenthere

@Planoian

There ARE groups of churches in Plano and surrounding communities that open their doors so that homeless families can sleep there overnight. They also help them by making sure they get to their jobs, and/or help them obtain employment and other resources. Maybe you would prefer men control and beat their wives to death or something near it in front of their kids? It's a shame that people don't realize that some people become homeless because they are victims like this, that they left home to save their own lives or sanity! Or maybe their home and everything in it burned to the ground. Or maybe they are disabled. Or maybe they have been discriminated against and lost their jobs. Or a combination of these things. Social Security is so rigid on it's rules for granting disability, some people end up homeless and very sick before they ever get any benefits - the benefits they have paid into the system for. Our great country has put in place a FEW safety nets for these poor people. No one gets rich off of disability, food stamps, or by living in one of these shelters! You all should be ashamed of yourselves for hating, and thinking you know what they "should do" and where they "should go." These things are complicated social issues with no quick fixes. Without caring people that help out, you would be seeing the weak and dying in the gutters of your streets as you drive your new cars to your six figure jobs. Would you rather put up with a few problems, or drive over these people's bodies? My guess is some of you would run over bodies, turn away, and complain that the streets need to be cleaned up. Because you have a hard heart. Next time you say, "Get a job," remember that no one can simply get a job anymore. You have to be HIRED. The other party has to be willing to hire you. It's like saying "Go get married."

popmusicgrl
popmusicgrl

So sad the legal and home-life quagmire that is created by the domestic abusers. The city's codes are in place for good reason and they have the right to enforce them.  I hope that there is a way to negotiate a safe-haven law with special zoning laws allowing for more residents...at the same time, MORE efforts need to be done to combat the problem of domestic abuse.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb topcommenter

Very smart girl. We got safe havens for babies, pets, so why the heck not for families.

Very astute. Props to you.

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