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A St. Cloud church is suing the city to keep its tiny house

There’s a big stir over a tiny house in St. Cloud.

A local church has turned to the U.S. court system as it tries to keep on its property a small structure where an otherwise homeless man has been living for the last few months.

St. John’s Episcopal Church says it was told by St. Cloud the tiny house has to go because it does not meet city code.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, St. John’s argues helping the community and its homeless people is part of the church’s mission. They say St. Cloud is trying to stifle their exercise of freedom of religion by having the tiny house removed.

132 square feet

The house, which sits on wheels, gets electricity from an exterior outlet and water from an outside hose used to fill a 32 gallon tank, the church says.

It was built for the St. Cloud Coalition of Homeless Men last year by high school students and volunteers in Willmar.

The coalition hopes to build a village of tiny houses to combat homelessness in the St. Cloud area. But currently the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals does not seem to have a category in its code for tiny houses.

In its lawsuit, St. John’s writes that it would like to see St. Cloud follow the lead of Duluth, which has a category called an Accessory Dwelling Unit.

Instead, the church says the “Notice of Violation” it got from the city this month considers the tiny house both a residential dwelling and a recreational vehicle. It doesn’t meet the standards for a residence and St. Cloud does not allow people to live in recreational vehicles.

The resident of the home is identified in court documents as John Doe. Robert Feigh, the attorney for St. John’s Episcopal, tells KFGO the church wants confirmation from the court that it’s within its rights to provide shelter to the man.

“The church is not only a faith community and a prayer community, but also a community of action,” Feigh told the station.

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