Since 1924, City Gospel Mission has been providing food, shelter and hope for Cincinnati’s homeless population. But the Christian ministry’s mission to house homeless men may be jeopardized because of federal regulations banning religious and gender discrimination.
The City Gospel Mission’s plan to move to a new state-of-the-art building has been put in limbo after the group discovered the property has fair housing restrictions.
Plans to develop the new facility were well under way when an insurance company discovered that the property had a private use restriction dating back some 40 years. That deed restriction was part of a partnership between the city and the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Cincinnati officials agreed to waive the deed restriction, the Cincinnati Enquirerreported. But so far, HUD has not.
Roger Howell, the president of the mission, told me that HUD had concerns over the ministry’s religious work as well as its male-only housing stipulation.
“They are concerned we are violating the Fair Housing Act,” Howell told me.
According to HUD’s website, “Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and disability.”
A HUD spokesman told me they are investigating the matter and would not be able comment.The spokesman denied religion had anything to do with the controversy. But officials with the City Gospel Mission, the Cincinnati mayor’s office and the offices of U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown say religion indeed has something to do with the controversy.
“We are a faith-based Christian organization,” Howell continued. “That is crucial to all of our programs. All of our staff adhere to those beliefs and live it. That’s important.”
For more than a month, the mission has been trying to get clarification from HUD on whether they can continue their ministry at the new location. But so far, HUD has not responded to their requests. So right now, the ministry is in a state of flux.