A homeless man apparently upset with Union Rescue Mission staff set a box of Bibles on fire at the shelter Thursday night, police said.
The fire was reported at about 7 p.m. Thursday at 2800 N. Hillside, Lt. Doug Nolte said.
Denny Bender, executive director of the men’s shelter, said someone set fire to three or four Bibles in a box in a small library.
“There was smoke and visible signs” of a fire, Bender said. It set off smoke alarms, but mission staff had extinguished the fire before fire trucks arrived.
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Bender said he didn’t know the perpetrator’s motive or why he chose to burn Bibles. The men who spend the night in the emergency shelter or who are taking part in an in-house homelessness prevention program are required to attend a gospel service prior to eating the evening meal.
“We don’t require the men to listen, but they have to be physically present,” Bender said.
The Bibles that were set afire were so worn they were no longer used in the service, he said. The fire blistered paint on the wall in the corner of the library. A damage estimate has not been established yet.
“We’re quite fortunate” the fire didn’t become a much larger problem, Bender said.
Staff members and security officers on duty are drilled “and know how to respond to situations like this, and they reacted appropriately,” he said.
“It’s hard to explain why people do different things,” Bender said, but given the range of issues that the homeless can bring to the shelter, “sometimes it’s no great surprise” when something strange happens.
Police are looking at security video to identify a possible suspect, Bender said.