Feeding program turns to fast food

January 26, 2007 12:00 am

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Our Daily Bread Ministries says it will continue to feed the homeless and hungry until it can remain in a building within city limits.

After being told to leave two Crescent City locations, one an old gas station, the other a church, the ministry fed 81 people dinner Wednesday at Jack In The Box Restaurant paying for the meals from its remaining funds.

The ministry will continue to do so at four restaurants on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Program Director Mike Justice declined to say which restaurants they were, saying his patrons know where they are.

"The cost was $41 more than if we did the cooking, but we didn't have to go to the dump or wash dishes," Justice said.

He estimates taking garbage to the local dump after preparing meals and feeding those who stopped in three times each week will cost it cost the ministry about $425 a month.

During the months since Our Daily Bread launched the program, Justice estimates that it has fed about 2,400 people. Not all are homeless, its participants say. Some are working poor who live without heat in their homes to provide shelter for their families.

"I don't care where we are (in the city), I just don't want to move again," he said. "An ordinance in a city is not a reason to stop doing what's in the Bible: ‘Feed my sheep.'"

City officials have indicated that they don't want the program within city limits, Justice said. He would not identify which officials told him so.

But city officials denied that was ever said.

"If he's telling people that he's not being honest with me," said City Planner Will Caplinger. "When he came to get the water turned on at the gas station, he said the Planning Department was OK with it."

Caplinger said he is bending over backward to guide the ministry to zones within the city that would permit its program. He is conscious, however, that the ministry "attracts people a lot of people really don't want here."

"That's not my position," he said. "Poor people are here whether they're fed or not."

Caplinger said he is enforcing the city's zoning laws, not using them as a shield.

"Just because they are doing a laudable thing, they can't just do it anywhere," he said. "I'm trying to be consistent (with the zoning)."

Until the ministry finds a permanent home, Justice said it will continue buying meals and feeding people at the four city restaurants.