Or is it the pastor's bigoted attempt at showing himself to be a "Christian"? Does this pastor sleep on the steps too or does he sleep in a warm comfortable bed at night? Is his home heated because for all of you who might not know, Southern California is experiencing a record cold snap with temperatures going down in the twenties at night. What does this pastor think he is proving in doing this, WWJD (what would Jesus do?)
If Jesus had the keys to this church would he welcome these homeless people in and multiply the fishes, or would he throw them a bone and let them sleep on the steps outside in the freezing cold? It absolutely amazes me in this country of mine how so-called Christians think they are above it all and can get away with such obvious acts of bigotry. I will contrast this pastor's act with the acts of the churches in my own community where for more than 20 years the local churches have been providing shelter INDOORS on a rotating schedule during the cold months. They are also participants in two local homeless shelters, one for families and one for single men and women. They also sponsor the local food bank and have a hot late lunch served at the same church for more than 25 years.
Give me a break, this pastor is NOT charitable, he only is seeking the kingdom of heaven by showing off like the Pharisees!
Pastor to defy city's order to evict homeless from church grounds
Inviting a confrontation with city officials, the senior pastor at a venerable Long Beach church vowed Friday to defy a prosecutor's order that he block homeless people from sleeping on the steps and grounds of his church.
Failure to disperse the 15 to 20 people who camp between the sidewalk and the First Congregational Church of Long Beach's walls may result in a fine of $1,000 a day, Deputy City Prosecutor Sayge Castillo warned in a recent letter.
Leaning back in a couch in his church office Friday, Senior Pastor Jerald Stinson shook his head and said, "The city's threats are ludicrous. We're not going to do what they want us to do. Allowing these people to sleep on our property is, for us, a religious act."
Stinson said his church, a Long Beach historic landmark with a history of social activism, has found legal support for its actions in a federal court ruling that allowed a New York City parish to shelter homeless people outdoors.
In 2002, a federal appeals court upheld the right of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Midtown Manhattan to allow about 20 homeless people to sleep on its steps without fear of being rousted by police.
The three-judge panel determined that the church was helping the needy out of a religious belief and thus protected by the 1st Amendment.
That ruling is not a binding precedent in California, but Stinson said he hoped it would offer guidance.
"The ACLU took up the New York City church's case," he said, "and I would hope they take our case as well." Meanwhile, he said, "We're thinking about installing a Porta Potty outside for the homeless who sleep here each night."
In a city that has an estimated 6,000 homeless people, Stinson's resolve has won the support of other Long Beach social activists, including Martha Long, director of the MHA Village, a program of the nonprofit National Mental Health Assn. of Greater Los Angeles.
"I was so tickled by what Jerry is doing I wrote him a letter," she said. "I think he's a man of courage because he's pushing back."
City Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, whose district includes the church, would not go that far in an interview Friday. "Until this city has enough services and housing for people who cannot take care of themselves," she said, "I believe the prosecutor should work on mediating the problem rather than threatening a fine."
For some, the issue is more complicated, fusing sympathy for those in distress with discomfort at the gathering around the church.
Mario Nasab, owner of a restaurant across the street, expressed mixed feelings as he surveyed the Italian Renaissance-style church that has dominated the corner of Cedar Avenue and 3rd Street for nearly a century.
"If anyone is suffering over this, it's me," Nasab said. "It's not a good scene to have people carting cardboard and blankets past the windows where my customers are sipping fine wine.
"But the church has a moral obligation to help the needy," he said. "This situation of homeless people sleeping outside the church is the city's problem, and the city has to find another solution to deal with it."
The dispute began in late 2005 when local residents complained about the 20 to 30 homeless people who cocooned under cardboard, plastic and canvass tarps each night along the church walls and behind waist-high metal rails along the public sidewalk.
One evening, Stinson recalled, "I noticed three Long Beach police cars with their lights flashing and their headlights aimed at the people sleeping near the church."
"I asked one of the officers, 'What's going on?' " he said. "The officer said, 'The church pastor asked us to clear the homeless out of here.' "
"That's funny," Stinson said. "I am the pastor, this is my property, and these people have my permission to sleep here."
Stinson later received two letters from the city prosecutor's office — one in November 2005, another in December 2006 — warning the church that it was in violation of municipal and penal codes.
The most recent letter also pointed out that "No Smoking of Any Kind" signs Stinson had posted on the walls suggested he "may have knowledge of illegal narcotics being smoked in front of the church." Stinson called that assertion "ridiculous."
In an interview Friday, Castillo, the deputy prosecutor, said: "I don't view this as a homeless issue; I view it as an issue about keeping our businesses and residents happy and living in a safe and clean environment."
"We've had complaints of urination, defecation and littering at that location," she said.
As for warnings that the church is facing fines of up to "$1,000 each day the nuisance exists," she said, "Those letters are not meant to be nice, fuzzy and warm. They're meant to say, 'Hey. Heads up.'
"We will have a meeting with Pastor Stinson very soon in hopes of reaching a solution everyone can live with."
Of particular concern to law enforcement officials are homeless people who continue to camp on the church steps, even after being advised that shelters are available in the area.
But Manuel Cortello, 36, a homeless man who said he has been sleeping outside the church for three years, dismisses such offers with a wave of his hand.
"This church is actually a castle that was built just for me — I'm its king," he said.
"I'm just waiting for the right person to bring me the keys I need to open the door and go inside."
"Right now, I'm sleeping in blankets and a sleeping bag on the steps," he said. "It's kind of cold. But I'll be all right once I've got the keys."
He's just waiting for the right person to open the door? Try the so-called Christian pastor!