A San Diego Christian ministry that fed hot meals to 200 homeless people daily on an annual budget of just $7,000 has been forced to close its doors because of new state regulations.
Deliverance San Diego said in a statement that its final distribution was Jan. 11, providing water and blankets to the homeless, and it was dissolving effective Jan. 31.
The ministry was shut down due to new safety rules for food distribution that took effect after the passage of state Assembly Bill 2178, which went into effect Jan. 1.
The San Diego Department of Environmental Health said the new law would require programs that voluntarily distribute food to the homeless to use commercial kitchens to prepare what they give.
The food handed out by Deliverance had been prepared by volunteers in their own kitchens.
“The board of directors discussed options for utilizing an existing food prep facility, but due to the distributed nature of the organization, this option would prove to be cumbersome and perhaps only a short term solution to the problem,” the ministry said.
“As a result, Deliverance, San Diego can no longer prepare hot meals for distribution to the homeless population of downtown San Diego without incurring significant logistical and financial costs.”
Spokesman Adam Ross said the community also has had a negative reaction to the ministry’s efforts to help.
“We have seen a gradual souring of public opinion regarding operations such as ours. There’s a belief that we are perpetuating a problem, while that problem existed before we started feeding the homeless. We’ve sought to provide comfort to those who are going through an incredibly difficult time. In many situations, they are without a home due to no fault of their own. This action by the state creates significant barriers to those organizations like ours who simply want to show God’s love through a hot meal and some conversation.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported some of the backers of the new regulations were surprised by the closure of Deliverance.
Heather Buonomo, a program coordinator with the Department of Environmental Health, said she thought some sort of workaround may have been available or achievable.
Monique Limón, one of the bill’s authors, claimed, “The law would encourage more charities to provide food for the needy while also creating a level of oversight to ensure they follow proper health guidelines.
Joseph Sunde commented on development on the website of the Acton Institute, a think-tank that promotes “a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.”
Sunde wrote that the “reality is that the state’s dream of regulated soup and sandwiches is taking precedence over the bottom-up activity of neighbors who are passionate about loving their neighbors.”
“Is that really an acceptable trade-off, particularly in an area that so desperately needs an intimate and personalized approach?”