A Christian group in Philadelphia is fighting a city ban on feeding homeless people and has vowed that regardless of any fines, they will continue doing the work Christ sent his followers to do.
The city of Philadelphia had originally banned outside park feedings of homeless people, but a judge ruled late last week that the ban be lifted for 120 days – which gave Chosen 300 Ministries, a Christian charity working to help the poor, the opportunity to feed homeless people during the weekend. But Pastor Brian Jenkins, its founding pastor, says their efforts will continue regardless of whether the ban is put back in place.
"We're not going to move. My understanding that the penalty for holding outside meals is a $150 dollar fine – we will pay the fine. We will continue doing what we need to be doing. If we need to appeal the decision we will, but at this point our goal is to continue feeding the people," Jenkins said Wednesday in a phone interview with The Christian Post. "When we serve, we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are also following the commandment of Christ by serving those in need. And doing it on the outside – because based on Scripture, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.'"
"There were two regulations actually that were issues," Jenkins explained. "One was a regulation that targeted organizations that were serving the homeless, forcing regulations on them that would make it more strenuous to be able to serve, and I think the whole idea originally was to try and deter organizations from serving the homeless. But it was found out by the city that most of the organizations already satisfied those requirements."
The pastor added that this forced the city to outright ban serving homeless people in the parks of Philadelphia, which cover a great deal of space in the city and makes it extremely hard to help the hungry. Jenkins noted that he believes the court will side with the church when he gives his written opinion on the case three months from now – but he and his ministry will continue feeding the poor regardless of the final decision.
"There is Scripture to support what we do, and we are going to continue fighting to help the homeless," he added.
In another interview, Jenkins suggested that the city's primary concern wasn't health issues, but to keep the homeless out of public view.
"The real issue is they want to remove the eyesore of the homeless from the parkway. The city can't meet the needs of the homeless right now," he said.
A number of Christian organizations originally joined forces and sued the city over its ban on feeding the homeless. Mayor Michael Nutter had suggested that the ban was to prevent food-borne illnesses spreading through the city.
"Providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night," Nutter has said.
As a solution, Philadelphia had proposed that temporary feeding spaces be opened near City Hall, which would have public toilets, water and feeding facilities – but Pastor Jenkins says that such a proposal marginalizes those weakest in our community.
"Our society has built an intolerance for the homeless, and the answer is push them away, push them inside," Jenkins added. "There is no health issue. We met all the standards the health department already required."