Churches on the Streets has served hot meals to homeless people in St. Louis, Mo. for about a year.
The street church was featured in a story by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday, but the next day the St. Louis City Department of Health told the church to stop handing out hot food to hungry people.
The St. Louis City Department of Health insists the church must have a permit to serve hot homemade meals to 1,300 homeless people that the city does not permanently house or feed.
“They’re doing a good thing, they really are,” stated Pat Mahoney, a supervisor at the St. Louis City Department of Health. “It’s because they’re serving the public. The moment you start inviting the public to attend, that’s when we get into it.”
However, the St. Louis City Department of Health does not "get into it" when people to hand out hot food at St. Louis Rams football tailgate parties or at neighborhood barbecues.
“If I want to cook and poison my own family and friends that’s okay, but when you’re open to the public that’s implying a certain standard of safety,” city health director Pam Walker told the Riverfront Times. “That’s the standard we have in place for all the homeless shelters in the city.”
Unlike most churches, the Churches on the Street does not have its own building, but meets at the Cotton Belt Rail Depot with permission.
Every Monday night, the church fed hot meals to numerous homeless people who listened to a sermon from Edward “Pastor Paul” Gonnella, but not anymore.