The Brookings, Oregon, city council has passed a new rule that will only allow churches to give the local homeless community two free meals a week.
According to Relevant Magazine, the Brookings city council approved the limitation after people living near churches providing food for the homeless complained.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that presently, churches are the only non-profit organizations providing meals to the homeless communities in Brookings. For more than a decade, churches have worked with the Community Kitchen Project to provide at least one meal a day, seven days a week, for those in need.
According to Rev. Bernie Lindley of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, the new guidance coupled with the shuttering of some meal services because of the COVID-19 pandemic will leave some people without a daily meal.
To this end, Lindley said his church will continue to distribute food to those in need and will even go up against the city in court if necessary.
"It would disrupt their ability to get warm, nutritious meals for sure," Lindley said in a statement.
"This is the way we express our religion, by feeding people," he added.
In June, Lindley told KTVL News 10 that St. Timothy's also wanted to provide shelter, showers and clean clothes to those in need.
At the outset of the pandemic, the church sought and received a permit allowing them to shelter people in their parking lot, OPB reports.
"We continued to provide services because it's not just the meals that we do; we also have people come in during our office hours, Monday, Wednesday, Friday (in the mornings) to use our showers and bathe," he said over the summer. "We have clothing available for them, we give them a voucher so that they can get their laundry done at a local laundromat."
The large number of people utilizing the church for shelter reportedly caused disruptions in the neighborhood, disruptions Lindley believes led residents to create a petition calling on the City Council to "reconsider allowing vagrants to continue to live and congregate at St. Timothy's Church."
"Some of the people who are emotionally fragile ended up having some psychotic breaks, manic episodes, stuff like that," Lindley said. "So definitely, things got pretty dramatic for a while."
Despite the outcry against the new rule from church leaders, Relevant Magazine reports that the city maintains that it acted within its rights when it limited churches meal distribution efforts.
According to Brookings Municipal Code, "charitable meal services are treated like restaurants when receiving licensing from the Oregon Health Authority." The Municipal Code also prohibits restaurants from being located in residential areas, the precise areas all Brookings churches are located.
Since the churches are all located in residential areas, in order to continue distributing meals, they will now have to apply for a permit.
"We're not going to stop feeding," Lindley said. "They're going to have to handcuff me and take me to jail, which they won't do. So it's not going to happen; we're not going to stop feeding. We're going to do what Christ compels us to do."
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Kayla Koslosky has been the Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com since 2018. She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket newspaper. She has also contributed to IBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com.