A Brookings Episcopal Church faces fines of up to $720 a day for feeding homeless people at its church in a residential area at the same time Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has promised to look into providing more shelters in rural areas for people without roofs over their heads, according to KATU.
Vicar Bernie Lindley of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, which has served free meals to the homeless for years and even let people park in its lot overnight during the Covid-19 pandemic, supports the governor’s proposal to increase the number of year-round shelters but said finding a secure location may be difficult.
As St. Timothy’s stepped up efforts to help the homeless during the pandemic, offering meals three or four days a week, and even several times a day, neighbors complained to city officials in June 2021 about risks to public safety posed by “vagrants.” In response, the city adopted an ordinance requiring churches in residential areas to obtain conditional use permits before providing free meals and curtail how often and when they serve meals.
That prompted St. Timothy’s to file a federal lawsuit in August 2022, contending the city violated the church’s First Amendment rights by infringing on its right to freely exercise its faith.
An abatement notice from the city issued April 14 states the church must comply within 10 days or face hefty fines each day.
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