A California homeless shelter operated by a Christian organization was forced to stop its feeding program and find a new location after a nearby Christian church complained against it.
Merced Rescue Mission on Canal Street in Merced, California, temporarily stopped serving hot meals for 10 days as it searched for a new place where it could continue its feeding program.
Bruce Metcalf, the mission’s executive director, said the hot meals program had to be halted because they had been receiving complaints from the Central Presbyterian Church just across the street.
The members of the church apparently felt “uncomfortable” with the people the mission is serving.
“Some of the people that attend there with their young children are simply uncomfortable with some of the guests that we serve,” Metcalf told NPR.
The organization has been serving hot meals three times a day since 1998 and halting its feeding program temporarily left many homeless people searching for food elsewhere. The mission typically serves 75 to 120 people daily.
“I don’t think complaints are different than they’ve ever been. I think people simply got tired to having it close by them and were anxious for us to find a new location,” he told The Independent. “It’s true that anywhere, in any city, people aren’t interested in having homeless services next to them.”
Merced Rescue Mission not only provides hot meals to the homeless, they also help people with alcohol or drug addictions through recovery programs for both men and women. They provide homeless people with shelter, showers and clothes, especially during emergencies. And they help connect families with transitional housing programs.
With the controversy being given media coverage, the Central Presbyterian Church has received criticism over their complaints about the homeless shelter. A person working closely with the church who did not want to be identified clarified the church’s side. Simply saying that the church members felt uncomfortable “grossly misinterprets the facts of the situation,” the person said.
“If things were actually as they’re reported in the press then, yes, we would be hypocrites worthy of the criticism we’re receiving. Unfortunately, the reporter for kvpr.org who wrote the original story did so without getting any input from the church,” the person told Patheos.
As it turned out, there had been many instances when the feeding program resulted in a mess, with the occasional leftover food thrown on the ground creating a health hazard. With more than a hundred people being served every meal, that could be a lot of mess and is a potential health risk especially to the children.
However, the person said the church had nothing against Merced Rescue Mission. In fact, some members of the church had partnered with the organization either by giving donations or volunteering. The church simply wanted the mission to have a better location and create a more efficient system of distributing food.
“The Rescue Mission has been an integral part of this downtown neighborhood for a long time,” the person said, adding the church wants it to succeed.
The good news is, Merced Rescue Mission has found a new home at Calvary Temple where the hot meals program will continue. Metcalf said he was “grateful” for the new facility.
“The location where we’re going to serve is much better as we have twice the space so we can serve more people easily,” he said.