Recently Read: City says church’s makeshift homeless shelter is illegal

Wesley United Methodist Church - Homeless CampEditorial Note: We publish Recently Read as is because it is content from other news organizations.  After clarifying information was given to us by Rev. Forrest Clark, we have edited our one-line lead sentence into the story in order to more accurately represent the situation the local UMC is facing.  We apologize to any mis-information we contributed in publishing this news article as is.  We do think this story is significant and that is why we published it as a Recently Read.

A United Methodist Church in the La Crosse Wisconsin plans to continue to keep their grounds open to their city’s homeless population:

From Local News 8000

Wesley United Methodist church in La Crosse has let their courtyard become a place for the homeless to camp out, the only problem is they aren’t a licensed campground.

In the week and a half Kwin Kettleson has been in La Crosse, she’s had to call the backyard of Wesley United Methodist church her bedroom.

“I went to the Salvation Army, I went to the church charities, I went to other churches and nobody could help me,” Kettleson said.

For months now, United Methodist has let a handful of people like Kettleson turn green space outside the church into a makeshift campground.

“It’s a fact of life some of us are houseless or homeless,” she said.

But their so-called sanctuary might get taken away.


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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Charles HarrisonForrest ClarkPaul W. Recent comment authors
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Forrest Clark
Forrest Clark

It is unfortunate that United Methodist Reporter chose to use a poorly worded headline as the lead to this story without calling the church to talk about what the story really is. Or what the church’s plans are. This congregation was engaged in ministry with the homeless long before the current Interim Pastorate began. And will continue in one form or another long after the Interim Pastor departs. This is not a “makeshift homeless shelter.” It is a place where homeless persons are allowed to spend their nights away from the places where alcohol and drug use and regular violence… Read more »

Charles Harrison

Rev. Clark, thank you so very much for your clarifications as to this Recently Read. It is very helpful information.

We apologize for the mis-leading headline. Recently Reads are published as is without editing as it is somebody else’s content that we are drawing attention to. We publish Recently Read as a service to our readership.

Thank you again for setting the record straight.


Paul W.
Paul W.

I appreciate Pastor Clark taking the time to respond and provide clarification on the UMR article. However, I am confused at both Pastor Clark’s tone and response to my comments. No personal attack was intended. My comments are based on the content of two news stories on the local CBS affiliate and the articles published in the La Crosse Tribune. From multiple interviews, it certainly appears that the pastor (or the church) initially contacted the media rather than first seeking clarification from and working with the various government agencies. (This is a strange approach indeed if Pastor Clark truly has… Read more »

Forrest Clark
Forrest Clark

Actually, Paul W, I did NOT call the television station. Someone from within the homeless community made that call without my knowledge. If accusing me of contacting the media seeking publicity is not a personal attack, then what is it? There are many issues that need to be worked out. There is no question about that. I’d rather give the homeless a safe place to be WHILE we work out those issues than make then sleep in the marshes along the Mississippi River awaiting action. That is what we have opted to do. Your prayers are appreciated. I’d rather have… Read more »

Paul W.
Paul W.

Bringing up Google Maps and street-view shows that there is really very little space on the outside of this church and the church is surrounded by businesses and public facilities (e.g., a library). I can completely understand why the neighbors and neighboring businesses would not approve of the homeless camping out outside the church. I can’t imagine anyone in the neighborhood considering this to be a good idea. It unfortunately sounds like the pastor is interested more in publicity than in addressing and solving this issue. It would appear that he went directly to the media rather than taking the… Read more »

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