SPRINGFIELD – Springfield City Council at its April 11 meeting approved a change in its emergency shelter code to allow religious and social institutions to be used as a safe space to park for people in need. 

The code changes the references of “churches” to “religious or social institutions” for outdoor shelters. 

“Religious or social institutions” is defined to include places of worship, charitable services, community and senior centers, and fraternal and civic organizations. There are over 30 churches/places of worship in Springfield currently eligible for the Overnight Parking Program. Staff identified some examples of other properties that would be considered “religious or social institutions” that are not places of worship. 

Specifically, the change allows Catholic Community Services (CCS) to continue operating an Overnight Parking Program at 1025 G St., which is a charitable service and not a church. 

Springfield’s Overnight Parking Program started in 2014 as a pilot project to address the need of certain individuals and families to have a safe space to park their car for a number of months. 

Before the code change, only “churches” and industrial sites were able to participate under the code. Overnight Parking Program sites must be part of a supervised program operated by the City or registered with the City and operated by an agent of the City. The code gives the City significant discretion in managing the program to prevent impacts to neighboring properties.

The City may revoke the authority to participate if a property is not in compliance with the program’s standards or creates other public nuisances.

– Erin Tierne