Successful ex-offender rehabilitation home could close due to city zoning violations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 4, 2016)-- An ex-offender rehabilitation house that's been around for 30 years is in jeopardy of closing its doors.

This comes after the Jesus House switched locations and moved to the north side of Indianapolis nine years ago. Now the city says that type of establishment isn't allowed in that area.

Inside the Jesus House are many stories to be told. From recovering drug addicts to men who served more than 30 years in prison. They all live under one roof in the re-entry house striving to transition back into society. But a visit from the city zoning commission could force the doors to close.

"We didn't even know we were supposed to have a zoning variance. We thought we was still grandfathered in the way the nursing home was when it was here," said director Steve Whitton.

A couple of months ago, they discovered they weren't in compliance with city zoning for the location that sits right in the middle of a neighborhood. So after all this time with no neighbor complaints a visit from the city took them by surprise.

"They don't go out looking for this sort of violation. Somebody has to file a complaint and somebody did and now we have to act on it because that's what the zoning code says," said Department of Metropolitan Development spokesman John Bartholomew.

Leaders at the Jesus House applied for a zoning variance to comply with city code. As it stands, the city staff recommends the variance be denied.

"It's scary. Because this is my livelihood.  For them to close the Jesus House would be detrimental to me. To transition somewhere else because this structure offered me a new hope," said Richard Presley.

"This program is probably the most successful program in the world for ex-offender re-entry. The program is just too important and too big for something like this to just end it," said Whitton.

Some of the violations include the size of their sign, location of their dumpster and traffic flow in the neighborhood. The zoning board will hear from both sides next week before a final decision is made.