Pastor's Fight for Homeless Ministry Exposes City's Corruption and Self-Interest

Pastor Moses Colbert's ministry in Gastonia, North Carolina (Credit: Pastor Moses Colbert)

Pastor Moses Colbert has been feeding the homeless in his city of Gastonia, North Carolina, for 20 years. The church leader, who pastors Faith, Hope, and Love Community Enrichment Ministry, has been a pillar of his community in carrying out what the Scriptures teach about taking care of the needy. Now, he finds himself embroiled in a legal battle with the city government and local politicians who have decided to impede his work.


Despite numerous obstacles and resistance from local authorities, Pastor Colbert remains steadfast in his mission to provide shelter, support, and a sense of hope to those in need. I spoke with the pastor, and in our conversation, he shed light on his efforts, the struggles faced by the homeless, and his vision for a better future.

The situation began around the conclusion of 2019, just before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colbert noted that things “got really intense” at this time and he decided he needed “to really step up and try to do some things to help preserve human life.”

His church opened a shelter in Gastonia in late 2019 called “Uptown Shelter.” He heard from another pastor how dire the situation had become for people in the community. This is when he decided to expand his efforts to feed, clothe, and house the homeless.

Colbert said “….it took a while for the [shelter to] catch on, but it did work and everything. Then after we got everything going good…I believe we were keeping about 60 in the basement of the church in the fellowship hall.”

The problems arose when an older homeless man became ill, and they had to call emergency services to help. “The fire marshal came in and took pictures saying, ‘you don’t have a proper sprinkler system and such.’”

Colbert explained that the building was 100 years old, which is why it did not have a sprinkler system. The marshal told him he would not be allowed to keep homeless people in there, even after the pastor noted that “it’s freezing outside, and these people are going to freeze to death.”


Nevertheless, Pastor Colbert was forced to shut down his operations and, tragically, at least one homeless man froze to death on the streets. In fact, he said, about 10 people died from opioid overdoses within the span of a week. After this, Colbert organized a march to protest against the city’s treatment of homeless citizens, a move the city did not appreciate. The local government ran Colbert’s ministry out of one of its other locations, forcing them to procure another building.

Pastor Moses Colbert’s ministry in Gastonia, North Carolina (Credit: Pastor Moses Colbert, used with permission)

At this point, members of the community offered to buy two trailers to put on the church’s property to help house the homeless. The city had previously prohibited them from letting homeless people stay on the property but later relented, allowing them to stay as long as they were not indoors. But even this move was a problem for city officials, who sought to find other issues for which to target Colbert’s ministry. “They hit us with $54,000 in fines in one day,” Colbert said.

The city imposed these fines because of the trailers, which were to be used for education and rehabilitation for homeless individuals.

“The only thing they could hit us with was those trailers being illegally parked,” he said, also noting that the organization had filed numerous times for permits, which the city denied. It was when they paid the previous fines that they realized the city had racked up an additional $54,000. These fines came with a threat to take Colbert to court if he did not pay them, and also remove the homeless people from the encampment.


The pastor recalled that each time he tried to get the trailers in compliance, the city would add on more obstacles:

They keep on adding stuff. At first it was just the trailers. Now, it’s a whole bunch of stuff that they want us to do. And it’s okay. We don’t mind doing it. We’re going to work on that as we speak. We got people in line to come and bring the trailers in compliance.

We’re going to underpin the trailers. They want ramps on the trailers. They want everything they want to do on their list. We’re going to do it and everything—so that we’re in compliance with everything, [and]….we can comply to what they want.

But the scary thing is they keep throwing these fines at us. And it’s just not right because now, we take care of most of the homeless people in Gastonia.”

The pastor explained that the city refused to even send law enforcement officers to keep the encampment safe. “They want us to get private security,” he said.

As it stands currently, Pastor Colbert is waiting for a hearing in which he hopes the judge will waive the $54,000 in zoning fines and allow him to continue operating his ministry in Gastonia. Fortunately, he is not alone.

Pastor Moses Colbert’s ministry in Gastonia, North Carolina (Credit: Pastor Moses Colbert, used with permission)

Members of the local Libertarian Party have shown up to support the pastor and his ministry. Spike Cohen, former Libertarian vice presidential candidate and founder of activist organization You Are The Power, has been helping to draw attention to the situation between Pastor Colbert and the city.


During our conversation, Cohen brought up Robert Kellogg, a member of the Gastonia city council who is currently running for mayor. The official was one of the loudest voices speaking out against Pastor Colbert’s mission to help the homeless.

“They want a crisis so that they can grandstand on it and get elected and get more taxpayer funding,” Cohen said. “You can’t do that if there’s no problem to fix.”

He added: “We have [seen]  multiple times that, including on his social media, where Kellogg and some of the other members have flat out said…their goal is just to run him out of town.”

Cohen and others believe the city is trying to stop Colbert from operating his ministry because they wish to manufacture a homeless crisis they can use to enrich themselves politically, and position themselves as the ones to solve the problem. Unfortunately, while they have been adamant about attacking the pastor, they have offered little in the way of solutions.

“I think they’re not going to lift a finger to do anything until we see large amounts of death. They want a crisis,” Cohen said.

Mike Ross, a Libertarian candidate running for North Carolina governor, has also been involved in this situation since the beginning. He attempted on multiple occasions to speak with Kellogg and other members of the city council to try to find a resolution to the impasse. While having lunch with the councilmember, Ross told me that the official went “through the typical politician speak of ‘it has to be up to code and we want it to be a safe environment.’”


This reasoning did not resonate with Ross given the weather conditions at the time. “So instead of letting homeless people sleep in this nice, warm, heated building because it’s unsafe, we’re going to go make them sleep outside in 19-degree weather,” Ross argued. “So, forgive me for not taking any of the politician’s speech and excuses.”

Pastor Colbert’s hearing is scheduled for August 7.


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