Controversy in Colorado Town as Church Homeless Ministry Faces Shutdown Attempt


Secularists often complain that while churches talk about service, they rarely do it, and say it’s a sign of Christian hypocrisy. They ignore all the examples of Christians who actively care for the poor, the dispossessed, and those in need.

The Rock, an independent church from Castle Rock, Colo. has sued the city. The Rock has also filed a request for a preliminary order. The Rock runs a transitional, temporary housing program for those in need of shelter. Castle Rock wants to stop the program. You might be tempted to think that this is one of many tent cities in the United States, filled with drugs, prostitutes, and other types of crime. It’s the exact opposite.

I spoke to attorney Jeremy Dys. He is the Senior Counsel of the First Liberty Institute. This organization represents The Rock. Dys told me that The Rock is situated on 54 acres. It runs a large food pantry, a “blessings closet”, and offers emergency shelter in the winter or during times of crisis. It even has a partnership with the Red Cross.

Castle Rock is a community of the upper middle class. It does not have the resources to do such things. The homeless facility is made up of an RV and a camper trailer that serve as temporary shelters. The church performs background checks and provides counseling and resources for those it houses.

Dys referred to a man whose truck broke down in a blizzard. The church provided shelter for him, saving his life. The Rock staff helped him find a full-time job in Denver. Dys estimates around 15 people used the shelters between December last year and now.


Dys stated that Dys received complaints from the city about the RV and camper, along with requests that the program be discontinued. Dys said that the camper and RV are visible from at least three homes within the neighborhood. The Rock has a long history of serving the community, but the city wants to stop the shelter program.

The city has proven that it is serious about business. The complaint claims that “Lost Coffee”, a Christian coffee shop, had planned to sell their coffee through The Rock’s on-campus cafeteria “Lighthouse Coffee.” Dys claims that the city threatened to revoke Lost Coffee’s license if the coffee shop did not stop its business with the church.

Dys made the following comments in a press statement:

It is not right to retaliate against or oppose churches that care for the homeless. The town cannot stop this church’s use of its property as a temporary shelter for single mothers and their children who are displaced. The town also tries to stop the church from working with the Red Cross during times of crisis.

Dys and First Liberty Institute believe that the issue goes beyond governmental overreach or a case NIMBY. It’s about the First Amendment. Dys informed me that Castle Rock was trying to force The Rock not to pursue its core mission. He said that the First Amendment is important and should not be ignored by a municipality that says “Because I told you so.” He said that the city would need to give a reason why it is infringing the right of the church to free expression.

Does Dys have a point when he says that this ministry is an example of the First Amendment clause regarding the free exercise of religion? The Rock is a Christian Church and follows the Bible. The Bible says a lot about helping those who are in need.


Proverbs states that those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor, will also cry and be ignored. Proverbs 28 warns: “Those who give the poor nothing will lack, but those who do not see them will receive many curses.” Jesus told a rich man in Mark 10: “One thing is missing,” he said. Sell everything you own and give it to the poor. You will find treasures in heaven. Come, then, and follow me.

Jesus mentions compassion and charitable acts in Matthew 25:31 to 46 and Luke 6:30. The second chapter of James’ Epistle is very clear on the Christian duty to charity, and the way it is intertwined with faith.

Yes, it is part of the Christian faith to care for the poor. Mike Polhemus is the pastor of The Rock.

It is our mission to transform society through loving others the way Christ loved us. It is our mission to provide such outreach and assistance to the community, that if our church ever closed its doors, everyone would feel the absence of our church. Shockingly, the town prevents us from providing temporary housing and wrap-around support to those in greatest need. This will help reduce homelessness.

Dys stated that Castle Rock was not the only case and that he deals with similar cases in Ohio and New Hampshire. The cities involved do not seem to want a “church-based solution” for homelessness. Maybe they would prefer to see a government-led solution, or just kick the can down the road.