“We began our meals here seven or eight years ago, and we feel strongly that this is a part of the mission of the church, and that it's something we need to be doing,” said Deacon Chris Hulburt of St. Brigid Parish at 4735 Cass St., which serves dinner to the homeless every second and fourth Monday, catering to 120 to 150 men, women and children. “There was a feeling that, we as a Christian community, needed to be active in Christian ministry.”
Along with dinner, Hulburt said St. Brigid does one more thing for guests at its feeds.
“They can get a snack bag with juice and snacks in it, those are available all the time at the office," he said. "A typical dinner menu would include homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, a salad, a bread roll, coffee, water and lemonade.
“We also give out privately-donated toiletry kits, shoes and other items people might need,” Hulbert said.
Two weeks ago, Matt Phillips, of North Crown Point, kicked-off a petition drive on change.org that reads, “The weekly dinners for the homeless population in Pacific Beach are contributing to the complacency and habitual state of their homelessness… this seems to be one of the primary reasons that we have such a population of homeless that never leave or attempt to get off the streets. Churches are enabling some of the very crime that plagues our seaside community. We exercise the right to demand an end to cooking the homeless dinners six days a week because it gives people the wrong idea. For too long has this transpired without accountability of the local churches and we demand immediate legitimate recognition of this petition as it accumulates in signatures.”
Phillips' petition drive netted more than 345 signatures in just a couple of days. The goal is to reach 500 supporters. He said he plans to confer with PB church leaders to ask them to stop feeding the homeless. He also intends to submit signatures he's gathered to Councilmember Lorie Zapf and the City Council.
“Here, meals are open to everybody,” said Pastor Bob Rhodes, of Pacific Beach United Methodist Church at 1561 Thomas Ave., which feeds the homeless every Wednesday night.
“We see 150 to 175 people, and not everyone is homeless," Rhodes said. "There are all kinds of folks, not just those stereotypically homeless. There are families who come here, folks showing up living in their cars. There's even a guy who regularly shows up in a business suit.”
Rhodes said those attending PB Methodist's free dinners get more than a meal.
“UC San Diego dental and medical students along with licensed processionals run a free clinic here to serve people who don't have access to medical care,” he said. “We also have a social worker and a psychologist here for the dinners, even an acupuncturist.”
Rhodes said PB Methodist also distributes hygiene kits that include “not only ways to clean up, but information about things like Hepatitis A, which the unsheltered can get having no access to bathrooms.”
Rhodes invited Phillips to talk with him about the homeless feeding situation in Pacific Beach.
“I would be grateful to have that conversation,” he said.