The United Methodist Church and Standing on Stone, a Christian group, had been hosting twice-weekly homeless dinners on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the upscale city of Malibu, California, known for its 21 miles of canyons, beaches and glittering shopping centers.
Malibu, famed for its spectacular beaches and multi-million dollar homes, has a growing problem with homelessness, where the local population of 13,000, has roughly 180 homeless residents, but no shelter or housing for poor people.
The church decided to stop providing free, twice a week meals for those in need after city officials claimed they were attracting too many homeless people.
For 17 years, the groups fed homeless people, as the city and private donors donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for social workers to find them housing and services.
The came to an end stop on Thanksgiving, after city officials summoned organizers and suggested the services were attracting homeless people and making the problem worse.
“Very succinctly, they claimed we are increasing homelessness,” said Dawn Randall, a member of the United Methodist Church, who described an an email from city officials.
Mayor Skylar Peak denied ordering the meals to stop, blaming it on miscommunication” and even apologizing about remarks posted on conservative and Christian online forums, where Malibu residents were castigated as liberal hypocrites. .
“No, they were never formerly asked to stop feeding the homeless. Not at all,” Peak said. “We gotta bring the people together because this is something that the city is compassionate about. Maybe we need to do it in a different location.”
As homelessness began to grow, a group called the Community Assistance and Resource Team began handing out clothes and toiletries and arranging homeless service days with Los Angeles County.
Last year, some of the members broke off and raised $460,000 to hire full-time social workers from the People Concern, a Southern California nonprofit social services agency.
In just over a year, the social workers got 24 of Malibu’s homeless people off the streets, including 11 placed in permanent housing.
Some homeless people say residents are reacting to an influx of African Americans from Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles. Malibu is 90% white.
“People don’t want to see homeless people around,” said Tyrone Valiant, 70. “Now they’re cutting off the food.”
“People are confusing the real homeless people with the drug addicted people because they’re both in the same bag,” said Candance Scott, a Malibu realtor who wants the city to help solve the problem.
“I’m not inhumane. I do think it’s okay to feed them. I do think that they have to have supervision so when they leave the church they’re not just dumped on a bus and said here you go here’s Malibu. So what do they do? They want to get high. They break into homes they break into cars,” Scott said.
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