Tentative agreement may allow Agape House to stay where it is Church's pact with shelter includes four demands

January 08, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

Agape House and its landlord have worked out a tentative deal to allow the unconventional home for neglected children to stay in the Southwest Baltimore building that has housed it for a decade and a half.

After St. Luke's Episcopal Church said it would institute rent -- raising the cost from nothing to $1,500 a month -- for the Clergy House the charity was using, Agape House officials said they would have to cut services or leave. But this week, Agape House and St. Luke's agreed that the charity could remain if it met four demands, according to the Rev. Edward G. Robinson, president of Agape House -- whose name comes from the Greek word for divine love and is pronounced Ah-GOP-ay.

The demands are obtaining insurance, acknowledging on its letterhead its connection with St. Luke's, allowing church members to stay on its board of directors -- and paying rent. The amount of rent will be decided at a Feb. 23 meeting.

"We're still negotiating a figure," said Robinson.

"I can't say I'm happy with [the deal] because it's certainly going to curtail some of our plans," he added, referring to the hiring of staff and expansion of programs.

The Rev. Walter Burgess, St. Luke's only parish priest, could not be reached for comment yesterday. But Episcopal officials confirmed that the church and Agape House are negotiating.

"As I understand, they have only come to a basic agreement," said the Rev. Canon John E. Kitagawa, of the Episcopalian Diocese of Maryland.

Earlier, Burgess had said he made the Dec. 15 rent demand out of frustration after spending several months trying to get Agape House to be more professional and bring income to the parish.

Agape House is unlicensed and was uninsured until Dec. 19.

Since moving into St. Luke's Clergy House on 222 N. Carrollton Ave., Agape House has sheltered as many as 28 homeless children at a time. It feeds 90 children a week and provides groceries and clothing to needy people.

"We've always wanted to stay," said Robinson. "It's a fantastic PTC building. The house is extremely child-friendly."

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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