Posted: January 11, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness, Hunger, Morality, Politics

The People’s Kitchen has been serving lunch to San Luis Obispo’s south county homeless at the Assembly of God Church on Rockaway for over two years now. Due to complaints by some of the Church’s neighbors they will have to find somewhere else to feed the homeless.

Today was the day that they were supposed to be shutting their doors, but they’ve been given a temporary reprieve. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the extension they’ve been given by the City of Grover Beach only extends through until the end of the month.  

There has been quite a hoopla over this particular situation. Primarily it was due to some of the Church’s neighbors who were complaining to the city that the homeless were creating problems in the area such as loitering, making drug deals and just being a nuisance in general.

The way Grover Beach chose to deal with the situation was to tell the People’s Kitchen, who directly oversee the meals that are being provided, that they were going to have to find somewhere else to do their good deeds. The reason: since they were providing meals, what they were doing was engaging in a "commercial" venture similar to a restaurant. Something that the neighborhood in which the Church is located isn’t zoned for. That means that the city will not issue a permit to the Church to continue to feed the homeless – at least not in that neighborhood.

What I can’t seem to understand is since the People’s Kitchen has been feeding the homeless out of that location for 2 years or so, why didn’t the city put a stop to it way back then if they were doing something that was "against the law?" It isn’t as though Grover Beach is such a large metropolis that such activities like a Church feeding the homeless can go without being noticed for too long.

Anyway, what it finally came down to was that Grover Beach had set the deadline: January 11th of this year was the cut off date. The People’s Kitchen could no longer feed the homeless at that location. Everything seemed cut and dry. Until a couple of days ago when it was reported on KSBY-TV 6 that Grover Beach had given the People’s Kitchen until the end of the month to find another place from where to feed the local area homeless.

I find it a bit odd that the announcement that the People’s Kitchen were being given more time to find a place came AFTER the SLO Tribune announced that the County of San Luis Obispo had hired HomeBase, a homeless advocacy organization located in San Francisco, to help draft a 10 year plan to end homelessness in the county. But then again, perhaps it isn’t odd at all, especially with politics being what it is.

What I wonder in particular is if Grover Beach is trying to avoid been seen as too hard nosed when it comes to the way they deal with the homeless issue so that they’ll be on the County’s list of cities that will get some additional funding. After all, we all know that elected officials at every level of Government love to have more tax dollars to spend – even if those dollars are spent on often times frivolous things. If Grover Beach doesn’t seem all that receptive to finding a way to help the homeless, then there would be no need to provide them with funding to do so. Maybe it’s just a way to "play nice" – at least until they find out whether they’re going to get some funding.

Or could it be that this year is also an election year in this County and many of those politicians in office would dearly love to remain in office for another term. It would certainly help their image as "kind and caring" people if they didn’t come down too hard on even the most displaced of citizens. After all, who wants a politician who doesn’t seem to care about people – especially the poor and the downtrodden, right?

But the truth is that I’m really just speculating as to what is going on "behind the scenes." It isn’t as though I’ve been made privy to what the City of Grover Beach is up to, or why they decided – almost at the eleventh hour – to give the People’s Kitchen more time to find a more permanent place.

My biggest concern is what will happen at the end of the month when it’s time for the People’s Kitchen to shut the doors. Will they have been able to find a place? Will Grover Beach give them an additional extension? Is Grover Beach trying to help People’s Kitchen find a suitable location?

Most importantly, what will happen if at the end of the month the People’s Kitchen does indeed close it’s doors? What will the homeless in the area do without a place to find a meal? How many of them will be forced to engage in activities like panhandling, recycling and the like? Will some of them begin committing some actual crimes, like stealing, in order to feed themselves?

I’m certain that there is a solution that will allow the People’s Kitchen the ability to continue providing the local area homeless with meals without discommoding the rest of the community. There has to be some compromise that would serve everyone.

But that’s the key: compromise.

Without it, everyone loses.


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