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Zoning Laws and Homeless Shelters

Zoning laws may prevent churches from having homeless shelters on their property.

Last Reviewed: March 29, 2021
Key point: Churches may not have a constitutionally protected right to operate homeless shelters on their premises.

A federal appeals court ruled that a county did not violate a church's constitutional right to religious freedom by denying it a zoning variance to operate a homeless shelter on its premises.

A local Assemblies of God church in Naples, Florida, became concerned with the problem of homelessness in its community. Homeless people were living in vacant lots under unsanitary conditions. In response to this community crisis, the church converted a building on its premises into a shelter for the homeless.

The shelter created considerable distress among some residents of the community who were concerned about health and safety problems associated with the shelter. A zoning board later ordered the church to close the shelter on the ground that it was not a permitted use of the church's ...

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  • March 1, 1995
  • Last Reviewed: March 29, 2021

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