Church fights to keep its music venue and homeless shelter open

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SAN DIEGO --  The fight continues to save a popular music venue and homeless shelter run by a church in North Park.

Missiongathering Christian Church uses revenue from concerts held at The Irenic to fund their homeless outreach ministry. Every Tuesday, between 20 and 40 transitional youth ages 18 to 25 are given a hot meal, a shower and a place to sleep. They are also connected to other services in the community to help get them off the streets permanently.

"It was able to give me therapy, a place to eat," 19-year-old Michael Meza told FOX 5.

Church leaders are now fighting to keep the shelter open after the City of San Diego issued a Civil Penalty Notice outlining dozens of city code violations. The church never applied for the proper permits to operate a shelter or concert venue, a city spokesperson said.

Rev. Brandan Robertson, lead pastor at the church, says the fines issued by the city could add up to more than the church's annual budget.

"This is going to mean staff layoffs within two weeks. This means we can’t pay our mortgage by the end of the year," Robertson said.

Robertson said they have already fixed several violations including adding fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and exit signs. A GoFundMe campaign is set up to help pay for the rest.

There are several shows scheduled at The Irenic through the end of the year. Robertson said they may move to another venue while he negotiates with city leaders.

As for the shelter, church leaders are working with city officials to find another location to house transitional youth that rely on the church.

On Thursday, church members and other faith leaders gathered to show their support through prayer and worship. Robertson hopes they will allow them to operate without a permit, at least until the end of the year.

"We hope that what we do here tonight will again move the hearts and the minds of the powers that be," Robertson said. "Hopefully by the end of this week we can see some resolution that can help us keep being the hands and feet of Jesus to our community."

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