Philadelphia evangelicals plan a ''supermarket of ministries''

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- An evangelical Christian group plans to buy a long-vacant hospital in the Chinatown area of this city and turn it into a church and ''supermarket of ministries.''

The Philadelphia Dream Center signed a letter of intent March 20 and is negotiating purchase of the eight-story Metropolitan Hospital to create the largest religious facility of its kind in the region.

The group plans to use the seven upper floors for a residential detox program, vocational training for ex-convicts, a charter school, housing for urban missionaries and other agencies.

The idea is under fire from city Councilman Frank DiCicco and Chinatown civic leaders and merchants, who say the area already has five homeless centers.

John Chin, director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., also objects to having rehabilitation programs and a school in the same building. But the Rev. Chuck Paul, Dream Center director, said the school would be insulated from the rehab section.

City officials said the center would probably need a special use permit, which Chin's group will oppose.

The evangelists come from a 1,700-member Assemblies of God congregation that runs ministries to what it calls ''unreachable'' populations.

The Dream Center, patterned after an organization in Los Angeles, has been setting up outside Family Court and a low-income housing complex on Saturdays to offer meals and help to street people

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