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Westside Church to Stop Sunday Lunches for Homeless at Reed Park


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By Niki Cervantes
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May 2, 2018 -- After rising complaints about crime and other problems, the Westside Vineyard Church said Tuesday that its congregants will stop providing Sunday lunches to the homeless at Santa Monica's Reed Park.

The non-denominational church in Mar Vista, which has a decades-long tradition of distributing free meals to the poor, said it will stop the practice in Reed Park as of May 20.

“After 20 years we are concluding our weekly provision there,” lead Pastor Brad Bailey wrote in an email to the Lookout News, which he said he will also send to the community.
Pastor Brad Bailey

“We want to express that we are sorry for the problems which we may have contributed to by providing lunches on Sunday afternoons” in Reed Park.

“We can understand how frustrating it has become to have a public park space become something that does not serve the local residents and their children.

"We will conclude our provision of lunches before the end of this month on May 20th,” the pastor wrote.

Pastor Brad Bailey (Courtesy Westside Vineyard Church)

As the homeless population in Santa Monica rises -- by 26 percent in 2017 -- Reed Park also has been the source of increasing complaints related, in some part, to the numerous homeless people congregating there ("Santa Monica’s Reed Park Target of Complaints about Drugs and Other Illegal Activities," April 4, 2018).

Residents say they are avoiding the park, and lately more concerns from the public have been expressed about the free lunches acting as a magnet for more homeless people, scaring off others -- particularly families with children.

The pastor wrote, "During these past several years I have been aware of some concerns and heard at least some of the differing convictions that arise regarding providing food.

"We have sought to engage some of the entities who are serving and seeking solutions for those living on the streets and in their cars."

Bailey said the church has had conversations with law enforcement, St. Monica’s Catholic Church across the street from Reed Park and others.

“I want to explain that there has been a group of lives which have been making and providing these meals every Sunday for nearly 20 years," he wrote. "This began when we were centered in the Reed Park neighborhood."

After meeting for years at Lincoln Middle School and Trinity Baptist Church, Vineyard relocated to Mar Vista and has since "become more Westside centered," Baily said. But the congregation, some of whose members are Santa Monica residents, has maintained its ties to the beach city.

"Those involved felt some obligation to maintain their relationship with those in need at Reed Park," Bailey wrote. “Nonetheless, at this point, I want to take responsibility for not having engaged this in a more conclusive fashion.

"Having not had leaders directly involved in the local strategic process, we should not have continued our involvement as long as we have."

Bailey said he wants to "personally apologize for how this has added to problems experienced by the local residents who are seeking compassionate and cohesive solutions to the needs at Reed Park.

“I hope that all involved can appreciate the hearts of those who gather after worship each week to make lunches for those who are hungry."

The church will "seek to transition those hearts and resources to needs which don’t involve the conflict with residential issues," Bailey said.

Westside Vineyard Church will use its final weeks at Reed Park "to communicate this change to both those who serve and those who are served.”

Bailey said it is important not to judge "another person’s worth based on their current condition and manner" that can "simply cast as the enemy.

"Labels may serve some practical use, but they often serve to separate us from the far more fundamental humanity that we share in common," the pastor wrote. "May we all learn to slowly lay down the stones we have been so quick to project onto others."


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