Feeding the Homeless

A neighbor complained because we were feeding the homeless on church property.

So, two weeks ago, we were told by the City of Phoenix that we cannot feed the homeless on our property. It was said that we were in violation of our zoning ordinance.  As explained to us, feeding the homeless can only occur in a commercial or industrial zones, and we are residential.  But I believe the officials are redefining us as a “Charity Dining Hall”…or a “Religious Mission.”  Both of those entities have these zoning restrictions.  Our appeal to the city is that we are a “Church” and as such, the zoning ordinance does not restrict us from feeding the homeless.

More than that, we are a church who has a core belief in the action of faith.  Faith, for us, is not just something we talk about…it is something we do. 

In a city where homelessness is on the rise, where new first-time homeless families are showing up, and where even children and teens are being raised without roofs over their heads, this church, CrossRoads United Methodist, is stepping up to address a problem.  It does not make sense to ask us to stop for any reason!

We want to be good neighbors.  And for us, we see the “neighbor” as defined in the story of The Good Samaritan.  We will not pass by the neighbors with houses, nor the neighbors with out houses.  For it is our charge to live out our faith in the world, so that the one left broken, beaten down, and hungry is cared for, loved, and given hope.


  1. I saw your story on the news tonight. This is another case where someone complains because they don’t like hearing, seeing or realizing the homeless issue you are addressing at your church and in their backyard. Suddenly the City puts a stop to something good being done. The City has searched through all of their ordinances to find a way to shut you down to please those with means and an ear on the City Council.

    What would happen if you were having “weekly picnics for the community” and you brought in your friends on a bus to join the fun. Would that re-classify your event and bring it into compliance.

    Do your neighbors realize that the average age of a homeless person is around 8 years old. Children are the forgotten victims in homelessness and most Americans are less than 60 days away from becoming homeless if they were to lose their job. It amazes me that someone who is most likely new to the area has the ability to stop the work of a church that has been in the neighborhood for 50 years. I wonder how they would feel if they were in need?

    I hope that you find a way to rectify this situation and continue the good work you are doing. Hopefully someone in your congregation is an attorney and will do some pro bono work for you. Best of luck.


  2. I have two comments (1) Our family had a team that brought food to your men’s home once a month when we fed the homeless over by the John C Lincoln Hospital before they closed that shelter- and the place they moved to decided we could not bring the food but had to serve the “food” they provided – we couldn’t stomach it and had to quit.
    (2) our family now is meeting at our son-in-laws house with some friends and the city is telling us we cannot meet there because it is against the zoning. I sense a trend here – two news teams and a newspaper have done stories on our situation. You are in our prayers!!!


  3. I pray that today is a great day for you!! I read the news article about feeding the homeless. Statistically your geographic location has a relatively very low percentage of a religious observant population. Or, you are surrounded by a large group of heathens. I know these things, I am the Evangelical Team leader at Faith Lutheran, 805 E. Camelback.

    I think that you’re getting a real raw deal from the vote chasers. I will post this article for all to see at Faith, maybe get some publicity from Pastor Jan Flaatin.

    In the other vernacular – “You GO Girl!!”

    Good Luck,



  4. Dottie – you’re not a Charity Dining Hall. You’re a Church. Act like one.

    Make all those folks who meet on Saturday morning for a meal MEMBERS of Crossroads and put another Worship Service on your street sign and website.

    Next Saturday, do an altar call and make all of them MEMBERS. Print up some membership cards and pass them out. Nothing should prevent you from having an outdoor worship service and another Methodist Meal every week.

    I’ll be there next Saturday to help.

    St. John of the Internet


  5. This is a difficult issue and I applaud your desire to help but I question whether you are accurately presenting the neighbors’ opposition. It has nothing to do with being “heathens”. I am a committed Christian myself and personally serve as a volunteer in the prisons as well as working with Church on the Street and Phoenix Rescue Mission as well as other projects. Though I have not complained, I know that most of the folks who are opposing your project are good, charitable people.
    The neighbors’ chief complaint is the increase in problems associated with your project. Crimes of aggressive panhandling, littering, trespassing, urinating or defecating in public, indecent exposure, living in alleys, graffiti and other related crimes have increased in the neighborhood. For years I have been riding my bicycle several times a week on the canal on Northern. Since you began this project, I have seen quite an increase in the number of homeless in that area and especially on Saturdays.
    The issue is not whether to feed the homeless, but where to feed them. If there was insufficient food at the Andre House or St. Mary’s food bank, then it might be different. However, that is not the case. By busing these folks away from the part of town that has a concentration of services to one that does not is a disservice to both the homeless and the neighbors. As a church isn’t your ministry to be to both groups? Are your parishioners resistant to the idea of going where the homeless are and serving there? There are numerous ministries, agencies and programs for them that are always in need of willing and able volunteers and several are specifically geared to children. These organizations faithfully struggle with financial and manpower resources constantly. Why not come alongside them, serving both the homeless and your neighbors?


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