A charity that stepped in to help a homeless couple find housing after their 2-year-old son was found wandering around LOVE Park at midnight now says it has cut off ties, but the parents refuse to leave their new home.
"These people don't want help," said Brian Jenkins, executive director ofChosen 300 Ministries. "It was a hard decision. It just became very unproductive. There's so many other families that need our help."
The Chosen 300 became the guardians of $12,000 that was raised from the public in 12 days in an outpouring of support after SEPTA police officers found their 2-year-old son wandering around LOVE Park in October. Parents Michael Jones and Angelique Roland later contacted police searching for their son.
They told authorities they were sleeping in a different area of the park when their son wandered off, and that they were homeless because they had just been kicked out of a home.
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The Chosen 300 rented a home in Grays Ferry and invited the parents to stay there while the charity linked them up with drug and marriage counseling, Jenkins said, so that they could meet requirements from the Philly Department of Human Services (DHS) to regain custody of their son and daughter.
But the parents repeatedly did not show up to programs, failed DHS-required toxicology tests, and were continuing to use substances without seeking employment, Jenkins said.
Now the lease has ended, but the parents are not paying rent and continuing to occupy the home as squatters.
"We are not just going to fund people sitting in a house, not willing to try to do anything, who won't go to drug counseling, who won't go to case management services, who didn't even show up in court for their last custody hearing," Jenkins said. "They're not even interested in getting their children back. They're interested in getting a free ride. We're out. We don't give out free rides."
Jenkins said the parents ran up a $600 room service charge -- including food and alcohol -- at a donated Marriott Hotel room they stayed in while their new home was being prepped for them. The parents also skipped case management and substance abuse counseling services, he said.
The family told6ABCthey did not participate because they felt pressured by the charity to participate in Christian activities, despite being Muslim.
“He [Brian Jenkins] wanted us to go to this Christian retreat. We Muslims, I don't knock nobody, but you're not going to send us to a Christian retreat to receive marriage counselling because we're getting married," Michael Jones explained to 6ABC.
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His partner, Angelique Roland told 6ABC also expressed her anxiety, saying she felt pressure to convert.
"I really was devastated and I didn't like the fact that he was doing that. I was feeling depressed. Back of my head, I was thinking 'you're making me feel like I need to convert my religion.' I'm going to be who I am at the end of the day.”
Jenkins denied any such pressure.
"Nobody forced anything on them," he said."We set them up with a four-day session of marriage counseling. We actually paid the counseling services to shut the center down for a week so they couldfocus on them within the context of their faith. We paid $1,000 for that to happen. They decided at the last minute they wouldn't go. They signed a contract. That money is gone."
Other issues included the parents cursing out Chosen 300 Charities' staff, Roland lying that she was pregnant, and their continued blatant substance abuse.
"Our inspector went over to examine the house ... As soon as they opened the door, marijuana smoke hit him in the face," Jenkins said. "It was problem after problem after problem."
Now Chosen 300 -- which was the tenant at the home Jones and Roland are occupying -- has let its lease end, but the parents refuse to leave. So the landlord, who Jenkins declined to identify, has filed a motion to eject, he said.
"It is not eviction. They are living there, squatting in a house illegally," he said.
A DHS spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny that the agency is handling this family's case. But Jenkins praised DHS for putting the children in a safe home.
"What they did is protect the safety of the children. Returning the children to this family would be irresponsible," he said.
Jenkins said the remainder of the $12,000 will be held in escrow for a year, and if the parents regain custody of their children in that time, it will be used to pay a landlord of the parents' choosing, Jenkins said. If a year passes without that happening, the funds will be placed in an IRA account for the education of the children, he said.
"We really are discouraged. We have not lost hope, our faith has not wavered," Jenkins said.
"There's always a family that needs help. And if someone doesn't want help, God bless you -- next."