By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Twice in quick succession Our Daily Bread Ministries has been asked to leave feeding facilities offered to it as it tries to fill the local need of helping the hungry and homeless in Crescent City.
City zoning officials refused on Friday to turn on water at 284 L. St., a former gas station that the organization had just rented. A few days later, the group was told to stop using New Life Church, 424 2nd St., for the program.
"We're not stopping our effort, we're begging the people for help," said Mike Justice, who administers the program.
The stoppages are all about zoning and permitting issues, said City Planner Will Caplinger.
"I strongly agree with the feeding program, there is a big need and I felt bad about stopping it," Caplinger said.
The ministry's gas station location is in the C-2 Zone. New Life Church is the city's Commercial Waterfront zone. Neither area allows nonprofits to set up shop within it.
The ministry operates under the 501 c(3) umbrella of the Assemblies of God church, which Justice said it's allowed to do for "up to 10 years."
The church's location in a commercial zone is "unusual," Caplinger said, and raised questions for him that had not arisen before.
Objections came to New Life Church because of its two-block proximity to St. Joseph Catholic Church's school.
"I think they have more support than objections to the program," Caplinger said. "But even those who support it show NIMBY-ism in that people who want to help the homeless don't want to do so in their own back yard."
Illustrating the program's support was a visit from a man who arrived with three grocery bags filled with home-grown carrots grown in his Hiouchi garden during Justice's interview.
"The city told us that anything north of the Y is OK, so we're trying to secure a building there," Justice said, referring to the intersection where Northcrest splits away from U.S. Hwy. 101.
Caplinger said he believes the city and church can find a place for food to be served.
"It made me realize the extent of the problem," Caplinger said. "I thought maybe there were 12-14 homeless people here, but they fed 81."
During a cold snap earlier this winter, the city allowed Rural Human Services employee Steven Hill to shelter the homeless for four days at Del Norte County Fairgrounds. Our Daily Bread fed them three meals each day.
"If the city wanted to harass them (Our Daily Bread), we could have done it sooner," said Caplinger. "We told them they could have their cold weather shelter, we ignored that."
Caplinger plans to bring together community partners who can help Our Daily Bread and possibly others who have tried to fill the locals' needs.
"I administer $4.6 million in money from 18 grants, and other funding and organizations are available," he said
Because the 284 L. Street location has not been deemed pollution-free by the state's Regional Water Control Board, food cannot be served in the facility. But beyond that hurdle is the ministries' lack of the Health Department permit necessary to preparing and handling food.
"As soon as they asked for the water to be turned on, Public Works called us to question the zoning of the building," Caplinger said.
Colvin Oil, owner of the L Street property, has offered to return the ministry's rent money to it because of the problem.