Leaders at a West Chicago church are working to quickly fix city code violations discovered by firefighters early Tuesday morning that resulted in the temporary removal of an Elgin man facing deportation to Mexico who was seeking refuge in the building.
Firefighters were called to Faith Life Hope Mission and St. Peter the Apostle Mission, 900 E. Roosevelt Road, around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday due to a malfunctioning smoke detector, said West Chicago Fire Protection District Chief Patrick Tanner. They found three people sleeping inside the church, including Lorenzo Solorzano-Morales, the Elgin man who has been staying in the church since October, and two activists who were keeping him company.
Tanner said firefighters also discovered other building and life safety violations, such as expired fire extinguishers and a door covered in tape that prevented it from being a proper exit in the case of a fire. He said it is unsafe for anyone to continue occupying a space that doesn’t comply with life safety standards.
City officials said Thursday they first learned the church had taken occupancy of the space after the firefighters reported it. John Said, the city’s director of community development, said the church moved into the space without obtaining a required inspection and occupancy permit.
“It must be emphasized that the city did not close the church. We simply provided written notice that they did not have an occupancy permit and the proper inspection,” he said, adding that ongoing conversations between the city, church and building owner have been “productive and constructive.”
Mayor Ruben Pineda said city inspectors visited the church in person on Wednesday as well to provide a detailed list of violations that need to be addressed. If those repairs are made, he said, there will be no problem.
“This is strictly codes and ordinances and life safety issues,” he said. “It has nothing to do with immigration; it has nothing to do with the gentleman in there.”
But church leader the Rev. Jose Landaverde said he felt the situation was handled poorly. He said Pineda and other city leaders have been sincere and supportive when he has met with them, but he has suspicions that someone who didn’t like what was happening at the church with Solorzano-Morales tampered with the fire alarm to make it go off.
SOURCE: Jessica Cilella