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churches being used as an occasional homeless shelter

Discussion in 'Commercial Building Codes' started by linnrg, Dec 17, 2019.

  1. linnrg

    linnrg Sawhorse

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    Has any one permitted the use of an existing, probably non-sprinklered, church to be used for temporary homeless shelters?

    I know if a homeless shelter was built from the ground up or a change of use it would be R and Fire Sprinklers would be required. Egress windows and probably much more in terms of plumbing fixtures.

    There is a local coalition that is looking at a group of churches to each provide the service of a homeless shelter on a rotating basis. These would be non-permanent and only available at 20 degrees and lower. I do not know number of occupants at this time. I believe that the intent is to still remain as the primary function of a church.
     
  2. cda

    cda Sawhorse

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    Not churches but other buildings

    We got a level of comfort, for life safety.

    Most were sprinkled already.

    Suggest visit to each location and give & up or down vote.

    Maybe if possible, if say using classrooms, require battery smoke detectors.

    Let them know in writing when the places can be used and not used. You
    might find full time use if you do not.

    Then you have to play Grinch and kick everyone out, live at five.
     
  3. Yikes

    Yikes Gold Member

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    I don't think this is any different than setting up emergency evacuation shelters in school gyms, etc. It happens all the time in disaster areas.
    Here in CA is an example of a local ordinance adopted by a Bay Area city in establishing minimum requirements for "faith based temporary shelters". See pages 5-7 for their life safety related requirements for existing structures (with additional requirements for new structures).

    https://fremont.gov/DocumentCenter/View/39433/PL7-060-Faith-Based-Temp-Shelter
     
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  4. conarb

    conarb Registered User

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    Today the US Supreme Court refused to look at a 9th Circuit case limiting where people can sleep on the streets, I'd say if cities can't regulate where people can sleep on the streets they can't limit where they can sleep in churches or any other building for that matter,

    Oakland is looking into mooring cruise ships at it's port as a way to house people and get around the building code,


    ¹ https://www.zerohedge.com/political/supreme-court-lets-lower-court-ruling-stand-allowing-homeless-sleep-sidewalk
     
  5. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    Surely if individuals can fall asleep during a church service I see no problem with them sleeping in the church at other times.

    Having said that I think this raises a number of troubling concerns.

    Given the separation of church and state I do not see how they can limit this to faith based organizations.

    The City does not have the authority to adopt requirements for temporary homeless shelters. These are effectively building regulations and the State has preempted the regulation of building construction and local jurisdictions can only adopt local modifications to the building regulations when allowed by the State. The local ordinances do not satisfy the criteria for local modifications which means they are not valid.

    If the Church were to be classified as an emergency shelter the building would be classified as Risk Category IV which would imply that the building would need to be seismically upgraded. (Table 1604.5)

    The point is that if we are very formal ab out this the building may not be able to be used for this purpose. And while the building official does not have the authority to formally decide not to enforce the building code the building official has great discretion where to expend the departments enforcement activities. Maybe the solution is for the building official to exercise some discretion.
     
  6. north star

    north star Sawhorse

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    # ~ #

    linnrg,

    For the moment & setting aside the various Codes & local Ordinances,
    if churches want to be used as homeless shelters in sub 20 degree temps.,
    can resources in the community \ affiliated with the churches, be
    marshalled to provide (1) temp. increased restrooms, (2) 24 hr. fire

    watches & (3) possible medical personnel & (4) other ?


    # ~ #
     
  7. TheCommish

    TheCommish Sawhorse

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  8. mtlogcabin

    mtlogcabin Registered User

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    We have our first one which we used the operational permit under the fire code to establish conditions
    Non- sprinklered, the sleeping are is located in the 1800 sq ft basement. We limited the use to twenty beds. The group operating the "warming house" as it will be called will have 2 staff that will be awake through out the night. We required some smoke and CO detectors be installed. The permit expires on April 1, 2020. No cooking or meals served, They will be picked up at 7:00 am by Salvation Army bus and taken to their facility for breakfast and a shower if they want.
     
  9. ADAguy

    ADAguy Registered User

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    Sounds very similar to the boat fire below decks we had recently in CA. Fire watchers fell asleep, exits too small, no sprinklers, alarms didn't work.
    Basement probably not accessible!
     
  10. steveray

    steveray Sawhorse

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    I'm kind of surprised with shelters being Risk Category 4 that people are so nonchalant about dismissing that....Unless the buildings were designed that way....T1604.5
     
  11. Paul Sweet

    Paul Sweet Sawhorse

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    We have a similar group here in Richmond, VA called CARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond To Assure Shelter) that has housed 20 - 30 adults at a time in various churches. Meals are prepared in the church kitchen, and 1 or 2 adults are with them all night. This program has run since the 1980s. Our code enforcement is fairly tight, so I'm sure there are several measures in place to assure safety.
     
  12. conarb

    conarb Registered User

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    Well the homeless have to live in code-compliant buildings, let them starve or freeze, who cares? Yesterday I stopped at a new Wendy's, behind it is a creek, some of those people are in wheelchairs, I had to wonder how they get their wheelchairs up and down into the creek, maybe call ADA Guy, he'll help them for sure, I don't know how it works, but all the gender neutral restrooms have huge combination locks on them, the counter-person gives you a code to punch in, if they remember the code I guess they keep coming back
     
    #12 conarb, Dec 18, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2019
  13. Yikes

    Yikes Gold Member

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    Given the context in Chapter 16 structural design, I believe the intent of T16045. "emergency shelter" relates to the kind of emergency that would endanger the structural integrity of other conventional shelters / homes; these emergencies would include earthquakes, hurricanes, fires. I don't think a cold weather snap, which becomes a public health emergency, would endanger the structural integrity in the same manner.

    If the alternative on a cold night is between staying in a warm church that was designed for a lower structural risk category vs. dying on the streets while complying with the letter of the code, it's easy to see which is the less risky public health/safety/welfare choice.

    Now for my rant:
    Here in the jurisdiction of the 9th circuit, we are witnessing a public health disaster in the making. I say this as someone who has designed affordable housing and homeless shelters for over 2 decades. Last spring, LA City Hall had a typhus outbreak - the vector was the rats from the nearby homeless encampments. Our beaches are unswimmable due to fecal bacteria runoff after rainstorms. We've had a number of wildfires started when the campfires of homeless people got out of control. It is unsustainable, and it's getting worse.

    A couple of years a ago, a homeless woman in my town died of hypothermia, and the commentariat was lamenting how callous our society had been to allow this to happen - - when in fact she had repeatedly refused to be taken to a shelter and resisted all other offers of assistance, and the 9th circuit ruling prohibited the local police from making a "mercy arrest" to keep her warm for the night. While that ruling stands, until enough beds are available for every homeless person in the jurisdiction, people who are not competent to care for themselves cannot be forced to use shelters. Therefore, we need creative solutions now, and not wait until the next 3 year code cycle.
     
    #13 Yikes, Dec 18, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2019
  14. Yikes

    Yikes Gold Member

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    On the lighter side, this is from a 1947 compilation of cartoons from Architectural Record:

    upload_2019-12-18_12-17-7.png
     
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  15. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    Homeless shelters are only one example of problems with our system of building regulations.

    To talk about a 3 year code cycle in California is misleading since it implies you could correct the problem in 3 years. Given the ICC process and the state process it takes 5 to 8 years from the time you decide you need to make a c ode change till a code change becomes effective..
     
  16. steveray

    steveray Sawhorse

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    Homeless shelter I agree, but other talk of "storm shelter" is clearly listed as Cat 4
     
  17. Ty J.

    Ty J. Sawhorse

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    A storm shelter would be a place of refuge during a storm event. Definition from IBC Ch. 2 as follows:

    STORM SHELTER. A building, structure or portions thereof, constructed in accordance with ICC 500 and designated for use during a severe wind storm event, such as a hurricane or tornado.
    Key aspect of the definition is during. The designation would not include churches, schools, etc. that are often used by the RedCross and other organizations for shelter following an event.
     
  18. ADAguy

    ADAguy Registered User

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    Code changes daily (smiling)
     
  19. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    Emergency shelter is more inclusive than ICC 500. There is no exclusion for churches. I have always assumed that the deity expects us to be prudent and not rely on Devine intervention.

    I do not believe the provisions in Chapter 16 were developed with ICC 500 in mind

    I have seen homeless shelters referred to as emergency shelters.
     
  20. e hilton

    e hilton Bronze Member

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    I didn’t realize you were in RVA. Our church in midlothian has hosted the caritas adults a couple of times.
     

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