The city is seeking a court order to close a church home for unwed mothers, because, city officials say, the building housing 20 women and children is unsafe and a fire hazard.

In Downey Municipal Court on Tuesday, the city filed 10 criminal misdemeanor charges against the home owned by the Confirmed Word Faith Center, said City Prosecutor Martin Mayer.

The charges allege violations of the city's municipal, fire, health and building codes, including citations for operating a business in a residential zone, operating without a business license, failure to provide beds for all of the home's residents, and a lack of fire walls, smoke detectors, sufficient toilet facilities and proper exits, Mayer said.

The city prosecutor said some of the residents are sleeping on mattresses. He added that city officials have repeatedly warned the church's pastor, Al Howard, that the home was in violation of numerous city ordinances.

"We've been after him for seven months and the pastor has done zero," Mayer said.

Howard has maintained that he is following the teachings of the Bible in providing shelter for the poor, and that the women and children have no place to go.

Last week, a former city mayor said he has agreed to represent Howard and the church at no charge when Howard is scheduled to appear in court May 21.

Joseph DiLoreto, a lawyer who was on the City Council from 1972 to 1976, charged the city with "Gestapo tactics" and "overzealous prosecution."

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