PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The homeless family that captured headlines last October when their two-year-old was found wandering in LOVE Park has lawyered up. The public donated thousands to help them. And now, they’re challenging the charity that pulled the plug on the cash.
When Angelique Roland and Michael Roland moved into the modest home two months ago it was a dream come true.
“We love it, we love it,” they say.
Last October, they were thrust into the spotlight when it was discovered that they were sleeping in LOVE park with their two young children. DHS took custody of their children, and the situation was dire until Chosen 300 Ministries, a non-profit known to help the homeless stepped in to help. The group rallied community support and raised $12,000 in just a few hours, pledging to find the couple housing and pay their rent for a year so they could reunite with their children.
“When they came into the picture I was like I can’t believe it,” says Roland, “it was a dream come true.”
But she says the dream turned into a nightmare after a feud developed between the couple, who are Muslim, and Chosen 300 Ministries. The group claimed the couple refused counseling, became belligerent with staff and missed their court date. The couple claim they refused services for religious reasons– they are Muslim and Chosen 300 offers Christian counseling.
The dispute escalated last week when Chosen 300 founder, Brian Jenkins, held a press conference at the non-profit’s West Philadelphia location, telling reporters, his group was cutting off support .
“Shortly after we were able to place them in housing they began to reject services,” Jenkins said at the press conference, “You don’t want help– next. And it’s just that simple…There are so many people out there that want to try.”
Jones and Roland hired an attorney.
“All of the donations were made for their benefit and Chosen has stood in the way by saying we’re going to direct how those funds are use,” says Mu’Min Islam, an attorney who represents Roland and Jones pro bono.
He is working with them on both their effort to regain custody of their children from DHS, as well as the challenge to Chosen 300 Ministries.
He says he sent Chosen 300 a letter with a number of demands, including, an accounting of the donated funds, rights to stay in the house
for the year promised and a public apology.
Islam says he’ll go to the Attorney General unless Chosen 300 keeps its word.
“When the funds are not used over the course of this year, that’s a problem,” says Islam.
He says he’s also considering a lawsuit with numerous claims, including slander.
Chosen 300 leader Brian Jenkins declined to speak on camera, but said the group has retained an attorney. He says they’ve terminated the lease on Roland and Jones home, but will continue to make the landlord whole until the dispute is resolved.
With regard to the funds, Jenkins says their position has not changed.
“If [Roland and Jones] are reunited with their children by next October and find new housing, Chosen 300 will provide housing until the funds are exhausted,” he told KYW Newsradio today, “Otherwise, the funds will go to an education fund for the children.”
Meanwhile, Roland and Jones say they have no plans to move out of the home, but they also have no plans to work with Chosen 300 any further. Instead, they are going to focus on re-gaining custody of their children. As for the dispute, Jones says he’ll leave it to a higher power.
“All I can do is pray,” he says.