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'We want to help': Pastor hopes for agreement with Castle Rock in effort to house those in need

The Rock Church filed a lawsuit after it received backlash from the town for providing temporary shelter for unhoused people on its property.
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Posted at 7:11 AM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 09:11:16-05

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A Castle Rock pastor is holding out hope that an agreement can be reached with the town regarding the church's efforts to temporarily house those experiencing homelessness.

In a complaint filed on Jan. 4, The Rock Church alleges the Town of Castle Rock and the zoning manager tried to prohibit it from providing shelter for "people experiencing temporary homelessness."

Pastor Mike Polhemus told Denver7 the church would offer temporary housing in two campers behind the church on its property. Polhemus said the church can house, at most, two families at a time.

"We have to have a place where we can— in emergency situations— bring someone in and temporarily house them or shelter them... until we can get them back on their feet," said Polhemus.

The pastor said the church vets the families before offering housing and provides wrap-around services.

"We want to help them with jobs," said Polhemus. "We want to help with food. We want to help them with shelter."

Within weeks, according to Polhemus, the people housed by the church are able to get back on their feet. He said the church's efforts are inspired by the Bible.

"What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no good works as evidence?" he said, quoting James 2:14.

Frederick Kreuger is one of several people who temporarily stayed in one of the campers after struggling to find a job due to a disability.

"They saved my life," said Kreuger. "Let's just put it out there where it is — I wouldn't be here right now if I had to stay out there those nights."

Kreuger, who struggles to walk, was recommended to The Rock Church and stayed in a camper on site. He was able to create a routine and search for a job that could accommodate his disability.

"I had a microwave and a place to park," he said. "Plus, it gave me time to sleep and then get ready for the next day so I go back to work."

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On September 29, 2023, the church received a "letter of determination" from the zoning manager, stating the church was violating zoning regulations and that it can't have RVs used as residences parked on site. The church filed an appeal with the Board of Adjustment on October 13, 2023. The board heard the appeal in December and sided with the zoning manager.

In response, Polhemus said the church has stopped offering temporary housing for now. He said he has already had to turn one family away.

"It's hard," he said. "For these families, for the single moms with children that want to stay in their community... How do we solve this problem? So I'm hopeful that we'll solve it together."

Polhemus believes the church is filling a need in Castle Rock by providing services and shelter for people who temporarily can't afford housing.

"I think there's opportunities for more (temporary housing)," he said. "But I think that's where we say, well, we'll play our part."

While the lawsuit is pending, Polhemus hopes that the church and Castle Rock can simply come to an agreement.

"We want to adhere to the city," he said. "We're not trying to fight with the city."

Melissa Hoelting, communications manager for the Town of Castle Rock, said in a statement, "We don’t have information to provide regarding the pending litigation."

Hoelting provided a link to the December 7, 2023, Board of Adjustment hearing.

"At the meeting, the Board upheld the Town Zoning Division’s determination that the use of RVs/campers as temporary onsite shelters on this property is not permissible under the Church of the Rock’s zoning regulations," wrote Hoelting.

'We want to help': Pastor hopes for agreement with Castle Rock in effort to house those in need