A ban on feeding the homeless population in El Cajon has recently been lifted. The ban was originally claimed to be placed due to a hepatitis A emergency, but many activists speculated the ban may have been a step toward criminalizing homelessness.
PLNU students serve a large homeless population in the streets of downtown San Diego.
Dana Hojsack, Director of Community Ministries, commented saying it seemed as though the ban was to criminalize homelessness. She continues saying, “I’m sure it’s difficult being a lawmaker, so I understand people on both sides of the issue are concerned. I will always try to ere on the side of grace. They need something and this isn’t going to solely all their problems because it’s a bigger issue, but it’s going to do something.”
Jackson Wise, junior non-profit business major, and Morgan Becker, junior theology major, are leaders in homeless ministries.
When it came to the possibility of outlawing homelessness, Becker stated, “they do not desire to be homeless but those are the cards that life has currently dealt them. They are human beings that are going through really difficult times. They are not criminals.”
“Many try to get out of homelessness,” said Wise, “and the cards are stacked against them.”
The focus of the previous ban was on sanitation, which our homeless ministry takes very seriously. The volunteers do food handlers training through Sodexo to prepare food properly.
“All our volunteers have to wear gloves,” says Wise. “We pass out hand wipes before and after [passing out food] and have hand sanitizer if anyone needs some.”
“We take it very seriously,” says Becker. “We would never want our friends downtown to ever get any kind of sickness from the food that we are serving them.”
Though feeding the homeless seems like an essential part to the ministry, there is a deeper connection to the people on the streets.
“Though people need food,” says Hojsack, “they also need friendship and relationship, so food, water and coffee kind of gives us an entrée to be able to dialogue and build relationships.”
“We are there to make relationships,” says Wise. “We just use food as a means to start that conversation.”
“We essentially are going as citizens and followers of Christ,” says Hojsack, “following what God has called us: to serve our neighbors and be available to them. This is a way that we can do it, and our students love the ministry of friendship.”