Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Another Roadblock in the Effort to Help the Homeless


Canandaigua- Members of the Canandaigua City Zoning Board of Appeals upheld a previous decision by the city zoning officer that St. John’s Episcopal Church needs a permit to utilize St. John’s rectory as a day center for homeless families last night.  The permit was denied last year by the city Planning Commission.  Last night's ruling by the ZBA was based on the interpretation of zoning code.  This is another road block in the efforts of St. John’s and The Rev. David Hefling.

The Rev. David Hefling said, “While not unexpected, I am a bit sad and frustrated that we were turned down this evening by the Zoning Board.  We are down, but not out, and we will be meeting with our attorneys next week to figure out our next moves.  Thank you to all who showed up, sent messages of support and encouragement, and who continue to keep us in your prayers.  I am very, very proud of who we are and what we know to be our mission. I am especially grateful to our bishop for his continued and consistent support.”

Background:  Ontario County schools reported 345 students as homeless in the 2016-2017 school year. This includes up to 60 families. The Rev. David Hefling at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Canandaigua, along with the members of this vibrant congregation, are aiming to help these families and open the rectory of the Church as a day center for homeless families of Ontario County.  

The program as proposed would be run by Family Promise, a non-profit, along with a network of other churches and volunteers in the area.  The mission of Family Promise is to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.  The fundamental belief of Family Promise is that families should stay together, and not be separated during the most difficult times in their lives. 

However, some neighbors in the vicinity of St. John’s Episcopal Church are opposed to the plan, with concerns over parking, traffic and public behavior from the clients.  They voiced their concerns at a Canandaigua City Zoning Board public hearing last August.  Some argued that St. Johns is responsible for enough activity in the neighborhood with the other church missions at St. John's.

The Rev. David Hefling says will regroup with attorneys to map out next steps.