Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, April 18 @ 10:16 a.m.
Brookings Serves Abatement Notice to St. Timothy's, Stating Public Safety Problems Remain
• St. Timothy's Episcopal Church Files Federal Suit Against the City of Brookings in Response to Ordinance Limiting Meal Services for the Hungry
• Brookings City Council Unanimously Votes to Limit Churches to Feeding the Hungry Two Days a Week In Attempt to Skirt Neighborhood’s Homeless Problem
The City of Brookings issued a notice of abatement against St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Friday, threatening potential civil penalties of up to $720 per day if it continues to operate a “benevolent meal service” without a conditional use permit.
The city also charged that other social services St. Timothy’s provides — including an outreach clinic, a day program and an advocacy program — violated the municipal code since the church, at 401 Fir Street, is in a single-family residential area.
Brookings’ abatement notice to St. Timothy’s comes after the City Council approved an ordinance in October 2021 limiting the number of days a week churches can feed the hungry to two.
The church filed a lawsuit in federal court on Jan. 28, 2022 claiming that the ordinance violated its constitutional rights, including the First Amendment.
“There’s litigation pending,” the church’s pastor, Reverend Bernie Lindley told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Tuesday. “We’re super disappointed the city would take these steps right now. The whole thing will be resolved in court.”
According to Lindley, the church’s lawsuit against the city is in the discovery phase. He said it could take years for the case to be resolved.
“We’re just trying to do what we feel our faith commands us to do,” he said. “We’re not trying to cause problems for anybody.”
The City of Brookings issued the abatement notice to St. Timothy’s along with a letter to the church and a media statement late Friday afternoon. According to the city’s statement, officials have “made every effort” to work with the church to ensure their compliance with the municipal code
“Unfortunately, St. Timothy’s continues to choose not to comply with multiple parts of the city’s code,” Public Works Director Tony Baron said in a written statement. “Despite our best efforts, significant public safety problems remain at and surrounding St. Timothy’s, including impacts on neighbors, countless police calls, vandalism, property damage and other serious public safety concerns.”
When asked to elaborate on those concerns, Baron sent the Outpost a copy of a June 7, 2021 agenda packet, which contained an April 2021 petition to remove the homeless from St. Timothy’s signed by 29 residents.
The packet also included an Oct. 10, 2020 letter from resident Tina Peters, complaining about transients that come to the church as well a Jan. 9, 2020 photo essay from the Curry Coastal Pilot featuring St. Timothy’s lunch service.
Baron told the Outpost that there have been further public safety concerns and complaints about St. Timothy’s since the ordinance was approved in October 2021, but, again, did not elaborate on what they were or how many complaints the city received.
In addition to restricting the number of days per week organizations could feed the hungry, Brookings’ municipal code also stated meal services could only be served between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and could last no more than three hours per day.
According to Lindley, the church began feeding people once a week on Tuesdays in 2009. The plan was to get seven churches involved, with each church offering a meal service a different day of the week.
Originally only five churches were involved along with two women who started serving meals at Azalea Middle School on Saturdays before moving their operation to St. Timothy’s, Lindley said. That left only Sundays without a meal service.
“Nobody ever filled the gap for Sundays, so eventually at some point we took on Sunday,” he said. “At that point, we were at three days a week in our building.”
Currently, St. Timothy’s offers hot meals four days a week and showers during its office hours. It also provides laundry vouchers, mailing addresses for those who don’t have them and COVID-19 vaccines at the Rush Building on Chetco Avenue.
St. Timothy’s soup kitchen hours are from noon-1 p.m. the first, third and fifth Saturdays of the month; 4 p.m. Sunday; and from noon-1 p.m. Tuesdays.
On Monday’s, soup kitchen hours are from noon-1 p.m. at St. Timothy’s, but Smith River United Methodist Church provides the meal.
Wednesday meals are served at Star of the Sea Catholic Church; Thursday meals are at Brookings Presbyterian; and Friday meals are at Trinity Lutheran. Brookings Church of the Nazarene offers meals the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
“One of the strengths for us, I think, is when we host these things, sometimes it’s not always church members who are involved as volunteers or are the ones preparing the meal,” Lindley said. “We call it the Community Kitchen Program, or the Community Kitchen Ministry.”