LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The CEO of The Fledge in Lansing helps those in need in a lot of different ways and last month during a deep freeze, he opened his doors overnight to those living on the streets.
The problem is he did not have the proper permits to do that and the city was forced to put a stop to it.
The Fledge sits blocks from downtown Lansing and has been known to help people get a meal and some warm clothing.
But, according to a notice from the city sent earlier this month, serving as an overnight shelter wasn’t something they were licensed to do.
Jerry Norris is the founder of The Fledge. Norris said back in February it was a warm place for homeless people to stay overnight.
Norris said he worried that the city’s shelters would hit capacity because of the frigid temperatures and have to turn some people away. So he opened his doors.
“We knew there would be people out on the streets if we didn’t have a place they felt safe at
He says he worked with volunteers to ensure people were safe for the short time they offered overnight space but that wasn’t enough for the city,” said Norris.
Recently, Norris got a letter from the city’s Department of Economic Development and Planning stating that the building lacked a special use permit needed for an overnight shelter.
It also read that anyone staying there was at significant risk in case of an emergency.
While Norris said he knows he did not have the right permits, he claims he was filling a need he thought the city should have filled with more warming center options.
In response, a City of Lansing spokesperson said work done by The Fledge is appreciated, “However, that doesn’t make them exempt from following the law.”
“…They are not zoned to be a 24 hour shelter and they received a letter from the City indicating how they could request a zoning change to do that. However, just like everyone else, they are not exempt from the law, especially when it comes to health and safety issues. Again, they can go through the process to request a zoning change. They are in a residential area and the City has to make sure laws are enforced and people are being kept safe.”Scott Bean, director of communications, City of Lansing.
Norris said The Fledge isn’t offering overnight stays, something city officials were notified about after the letter was sent.