As some of our members know, we have been having problems the past few months with homeless people using and actually living on our church property. This causes problems for our staff who have to clean up the messes they leave behind. This also creates a conundrum for us as a welcoming congregation. Our church does not have the facilities or staff to house these people for even one night. There is, unfortunately, no homeless shelter in either Surprise or in the Northwest Valley. The closest shelter in is downtown Phoenix. The Salvation Army facility next to us is primarily an administrative unit and does not have the ability to help these people. Our Board has been discussing this with church staff and members and we have made some decisions about handling this problem. We have approved a proposal to add exterior lighting to discourage people from sleeping on our benches and using our grounds for a toilet. This lighting is designed so as to not shine in the windows of the surrounding houses and to highlight our church in an attractive manner.
In addition, we have been experiencing people wondering into our church when it is open during meetings and Sunday services. These are not people who come to our church to attend meetings or services. They wander in, then wander out and sometimes wander about the building. Sometimes, they stand out in front of the church and accost members as they come in. For the safety of our members and children, the Board has decided to start securing the front doors (and both side doors) after the meetings and services start. We will start this practice in May. This will happen about 5 to 10 minutes after the services start and we will have someone keep a watch and let in late members.
The Board does not make these decisions lightly and we acknowledge that our principles would like us to be open at all times to all people. However, we have a responsibility to the safety of our members, children and property.