City Of Copan Tells Man Living On Church Property He Has To Move
COPAN, Oklahoma - A Green Country church is rallying around one of their own after the City of Copan tells him to find somewhere else to live.
Joseph Smith is a veteran who recently fell on hard times, so the church is trying to help him get back on his feet by letting him park his RV on their lot. However, the City says that’s against the law.
Smith says he and his wife were working and living at Lake Copan in the RV until she passed away in February. Because he couldn’t work, he moved to the church. Since then, he says he’s received several letters from the City telling him he can’t live there.
“These people call me homeless,” said Smith. “Well, I’m a long way from homeless. My home’s just kind of like a turtle. It’s on my back.”
Smith says he and his late wife Julie decided to sell their home in Arkansas six years ago to see the world. They’ve traveled thousands of miles and visited 17 different states along with their dog, Sassy.
“Seen a lot of stuff, had a lot of fun,” he recalled. “If she hadn’t passed away, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
He says even though the RV is filled with so many memories, it’s getting harder to get around in it. He wants to sell it and find an apartment, but it’s been hard to find something affordable.
“It’s not like I wanted to move in and put a foundation down and stay forever. It was just a temporary thing and all this come up,” said Smith.
The City of Copan sent him several letters, saying he’s violating city ordinances. They’ve even threatened to fine the church for letting him stay there.
“One of them says you can’t live in a mobile home in city limits or town limits,” said Copan City Administrator Pete Elkins. “Another one says you can’t hook two living quarters up to one set of meters, and it’s very, very hazardous.”
Elkins says he recently got a call from the American Legion saying they would help find Smith a place to live, so he doesn’t plan to do anything until he hears back from them.
The church pastor says he doesn’t believe they’re doing anything wrong and says Smith can stay as long as he would like.
“I’ll stand by that brother until I’m taking my last breath, or anybody else,” said Pastor Gene Hester from Families for Christ Freewill Baptist Church. “If you come here and need help, we’re going to help you.”
“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know, I guess I would have drove down some dirt road and parked it there and hoped for the best,” Smith said.
The city manager says he will follow up with the American Legion in the next few weeks. As for Smith, he plans to celebrate his birthday there on Friday.