With each new valley facing poor Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, the soup kitchen lines outside St. a week.
At one point, the church served meals six days a week, easing some of the load as other parishes scaled back their programs. Its most popular offering: pizza on Friday nights.
But since January 26, a program that from the church’s perspective is a globally identifiable act of Christian charity has suddenly broken the law. Under one The city ordinance was passed unanimously in the fall, churches in residential areas, including St. Timothy’s, can only serve meals to the poor only two days a week. They must also apply for a permit.
Two days after the ordinance went into effect, St. Timothy’s filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Brookings, a community of 6,000 to 7,000 people nestled along Oregon’s southwestern Pacific coast.
The church says the restrictions, due to neighbors’ complaints about virtual life, violate their federal constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech.
Pastor Bernie Lindley, 54, pastor of St. Timothy, said Thursday that the ordinance is short-sighted and pointed out that at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, there are statues of people waiting in line at a soup kitchen.
“Geez, what else is American?” Father Lindley said. “It was on the National Mall, for crying out loud. We celebrate the soup kitchens on the National Mall.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Medford, Ore., has evoked a series of nationally publicized conflicts between homeless advocates and critics, a some of them share the mantra “not in my backyard” or NIMBY.
Ron Hedenskog, mayor of Brookings and member of the City Council that approved the ordinance, declined to comment on Thursday.
City manager Janell Howard, who Father Lindley said attended the same high school as him, said in an email Thursday that the city does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Brandon Usry, 30, a Navy veteran who lives across the street from the church, said on Thursday that turmoil in the vicinity had become particularly severe during the pandemic.
To make matters worse, he said, the city, under emergency regulations, allowed some homeless people to sleep in cars in the church parking lot.
“We had naked vagrants fighting other vagrants,” Mr. Usry said. “We used drugs before the kids walked home from school.”
Mr. Usry added that letters, packages and lawn mowers had been stolen from people’s homes, adding that there were several schools and parks in the area. He helped circulate a petition signed by about 30 people calling for the removal of homeless people from church property – a document the church included in its lawsuit.
“They feel like they’re doing what their god wants them to do, which is feeding the underprivileged and the homeless, who I’m with,” Mr. Usry said. “What I didn’t have on the train was that they turned the church into a homeless shelter.”
Mr. Usry said he was not callous, but that the safety of residents in the area had become an afterthought.
“I understand some people fall on hard times,” he said. “I don’t defame the homeless.”
The Oregon Episcopal Diocese was also named as a plaintiff in the church’s lawsuit.
“It is a central tenet of our faith to provide generous hospitality by feeding, dressing, and providing sanitation services,” the diocese said in a statement Thursday. and health care for members of the community in need,” the diocese said in a statement Thursday. “We are committed to continuing to carry out our duties despite various efforts by the City to limit or end our right to free expression of faith.”
Father Lindley said that the city of Brookings has asked the church to allow homeless people to sleep in cars in the church parking lot under an emergency order, which has expired. He said the order limited the number of vehicles to only three.
Two formerly homeless women on the church lot experienced manic episodes and ended up in a mental hospital, he said, admitting that police had to intervene a few times.
Father Lindley said that the church – which also provides showers for the poor along with internet access, rent assistance, coronavirus testing and vaccinations, as well as help with driver’s licenses – has been punished by the city .
Up to 80 people, he said, flocked to the church on Friday night for pizza, noting that soup kitchens fill a serious void because food stamps cannot be used to buy processed food. available.
“It’s like the city wants to be the arbiter of who feeds when,” he said.
But in a letter to the city on October 10, Tina Peters, who lives near the church, said residential ambiguity has become untenable.
“We should not feel threatened, intimidated or frightened in our parks, beaches and streets,” writes Ms. Peters.
Reached for additional comment on Thursday, Ms Peters said her letter spoke for itself.
“That’s a problem,” she said.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/us/oregon-church-free-meals-homeless-lawsuit.html Oregon Sues City Church Has Limited Soup Cooking Hours