[Episcopal News Service] The Oregon Parish, which provided critical services to the homeless despite opposition from neighbors, is now taking a stand against new restrictions on its Department of Food imposed by city officials in Brookings, on the coast near California’s state border.
On October 26, the Brookings City Council passed a decree limiting the distribution of free meals to twice a week. The Episcopal Church of St. Timothy currently shares meals four times a week.
“There is no doubt that it is aimed at us,” said the Rev. Bernie Lindley, Vicar of St. Louis. Timothy. The community will continue to feed the homeless and hungry four times a week, in defiance of the ordinance, with the support of the Diocese of Oregon, which is ready to defend the parish in court if necessary.
St. Timothy’s fills a gap in social services in an area where there are many non-residential and transient residents, but there are few resources available. A recent census found that 121 homeless people live in zip codes covering Brookings, Lindley said, but the small town does not provide homeless services and there are no homeless shelters in the county. For years, the parish has provided a variety of services for the homeless, including its own kitchen and pantry, showers and toilets, a vaccine clinic against COVID-19 and an advocacy team that helps the homeless sign up for affordable housing waiting lists. and reap the benefits.
But Brookings has recently seen a reaction to the homeless and those who care for them, including St. Timothy’s. In June, 29 residents petitioned the city to stop the services of the homeless Saint Timothy, citing the dangerous and disruptive behavior of people living in the parish parking lot. The mayor and city council members have been critical of providing services to the homeless, saying it attracts them – and the problems associated with them – to the area.
Lindley spoke to the Episcopal News Service phone while working on his other job: unloading crab catches from his commercial fishing boat. He explained that the city council claims that St. Timothy’s has a restaurant in the residential area, which is prohibited by local zoning laws. Lindley said the city told him that the only way the St. Timothy could continue with legal work was to obtain a conditional use permit, but to allow meals to be served only twice a week.
“If we applied, we would have to stop feeding two days a week, and we will not do that,” Lindley told ENS. “So, if we applied, it would be dishonest of us to do that. There’s no way we’re going to sign up. “
Continuing the regular meal service, St. Timothy’s risks litigation from the city, including possible fines. But if that happens, Lindley is convinced the church can win in court, especially because St. Timothy has the Diocese of Oregon on his side. Bishop Diana Akiyama and diocesan chancellor Emily Karr are “in regular conversation” with Lindley, said Alli Gannett, the diocese’s communications director.
“The diocese fully supports St. Timothy and Father Bernie, and [we] they are here to work with the city of Brookings, ”Gannett told ENS. “Should there be punishment or anything, I know our diocese is willing and able to fight it.”
Lindley described the city’s actions as an insult to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution that will not stand up in court.
“The founding fathers did not want to [the government] to prevent the homeless from eating, ”he said.
“The diocese is quite full of hope – also because other churches in other parts of the country are facing similar problems and the churches have won,” Gannett said.
Akiyama visited St. Timothy’s in October to volunteer at his vaccination and testing clinic for COVID-19, wiping the noses of those who came to get tested. The Oregon Health Administration has declared St. Timothy’s official clinic in September, granting her $ 405,000 to continue testing and vaccinations.
“The diocese was focused on supporting St. Timothy in their ministry,” Akiyama wrote to the diocese afterwards. “It seems to be a good deed to embody Christ’s love for the world by threatening those who do not recognize the compassion that is alive in St. Timothy.
In addition to being very organized, well-staffed and attentive to detail, the people of St. Timothy is served with sincere dedication to those in need, ”she continued. “Let’s all remind St. Timothy’s, the city of Brookings, and each other on the miraculous work that is revealed when we awaken to the truth that what we do to the least of these, you do to me. “
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. It can be reached at [email protected]