Since 2014, the United Methodist Church in Malibu, California, has provided meals for homeless people in need, every Wednesday — as many as 100 hungry individuals were served at a time — but, after Thanksgiving this month, the invaluable service will be shut down for good.
According to the city, the church’s feeding of houseless people perpetuates — and, in fact, exacerbates — the epidemic of homelessness.
“Very succinctly,” Dawn Randall, who works with the church, told CBS News, “They claimed we are increasing homelessness.”
Without warning, the city sent an email to workers, requesting they attend a meeting Monday, November 9 — where they were shocked with the demand to stop feeding the hungry.
Church workers, who take great pride in their home-cooked meals, are devastated and frightened for the people who have no choice but to rely on the service — and feel strongly the city has made a grave mistake.
Options, for people without permanent and secure shelter to return to, are scarce.
“I think many of them eat out of dumpsters and trash cans when they aren’t eating with us,” lamented Kay Gabbard, who also works with the church. “We can’t pretend like [homelessness people] doesn’t exist in our backyard. We can’t pretend that it only exists outside Malibu.”
Indeed, homelessness long ago reached epidemic .proportions in the United States, driven — not by caring for people who, for whatever of many possible reasons, lost their housing — but by skyrocketing rent and home prices, drastic cuts to the workforce as corporations look to international workforces willing to work for pennies, lack of medical and psychiatric care for veterans, and myriad other obvious deficiencies and gaps in a system hopelessly tilted in favor of those at the top.
Although drug and alcohol addiction, mental health, and other generally expected problems certainly lead many into living on the streets, many who lose their housing lived paycheck-to-paycheck — able to support their families insofar as needs, but receiving low enough income as to make saving for the unexpected impossible.
To the workers in Malibu’s United Methodist Church, however, the reason people flock to Wednesday meals pales in comparison to the need to feed them.
For those who are fed, the service is anything but a simple, charitable meal.
“It’s a safe place,” noted Michah Johnson, who is unhoused. “And everyone is welcome. And the food is really good. It’s home-cooked. And there’s TLC involved.”
That fellowship has a lasting effect — one which the city apparently did not, or did not care to, consider in its callous, succinct, and abrupt decision.
“The church is very helpful,” Johnson added. “They keep my spirits up. They keep me accountable. When you’re homeless, it’s very easy to slip off and become jaded.”
CBS News has not received a reply for requested comment from the Malibu mayor’s office.
California’s church workers join a list of compassionate givers either shut down or arrested in the government’s unrelenting criminalization of homelessness — a concurrent war against unhoused victims and their advocates, in lieu of examining the overwhelmingly pertinent root issues of the epidemic.
In fact, Patapsco United Methodist Church in Dundalk, Maryland, encountered a similarly drastic and untenable dilemma.
On Wednesday, November 30 last year, Reverend Katie Grover arrived at the church only “to find a citation on the door that said we’re going to be fined $12,000 and have a court date because we have unhoused homeless people sleeping outside the church at night.”
Many slept outside, of all ages, she continued, because the church was viewed as a haven and safe place to rest — and, like the workers in California, providing any help to those in need is viewed as a welcome but obligatory duty.
“We feel we here as a church that it’s scriptural mandate that’s it an imperative to care for the least, the last, the lost, the poor, the hungry,” Grover told WMAR.
An unacceptable number of local governments have cut the already scanty supply chain of services and charities available to the unhoused — just a that population is skyrocketing into a likely human rights crisis.
What Malibu, Dundalk, and cities of their ilk are attempting, at best, is superficial amelioration — creating so many obstacles between the unhoused and resources, a mass migration occurs — leaving the appearance of having resolved an issue, when in reality, such acts only move the issue elsewhere, straining those who leave to the limit.
This myopic penchant of the State never to examine its role in impending crises — not the compassionate, dwindling few who attempt to patch hopeless governmental failures — will ultimately burden the tanking system to its limits.
(Image credit: CBS News)