Peninsula Outreach soup kitchen must find a new home
Thursday, March 19, 1998
In 1985, the Rev. Sam Gaskins founded the Peninsula Outreach soup kitchen, and has allowed it to operate since then on the premises of his church, the Christian Memorial Church at 520 Sonoma St. in Seaside. Now, say Peninsula Outreach workers, the church wants its kitchen back, and has given the non-profit organization until the end of the month to find new digs.
It''s not a sudden decision, says Peninsula Outreach board of directors president Bruce Dini. "The church has been looking to expand its programs for the past few years, and they''d like their kitchen back," he says. "We have 80 to 100 people going into their facility every day, for lunch or dinner. It limits the programs they can run in that space."
Unfortunately, the Peninsula Outreach has been unable to find another facility to house its free hot meal program, the only such program operating on the Peninsula. The Salvation Army gives out pre-packed lunches, Meals on Wheels offers hot meals for a minimum donation (which may be waived), and the Oldemeyer Center in Seaside has a hot meal program for seniors. "But as far as congregate hot meals [for all local needy], Peninsula Outreach is the only one doing it," says Leslie Sunny, directory of the Monterey County Food Bank. "It''s important that they find a new home."
"We thought we''d have no trouble finding a new place," says Peninsula Outreach board member Deborah Smith, noting that the soup kitchen feeds more than 1,500 needy people each month. "I thought people would be sympathetic."
They are, Dini says. But space is a priority on the Peninsula. "No one wants to see the soup kitchen close, but no one wants it in their backyard," Dini says. He says the group considered moving the kitchen to Fort Ord, where Peninsula Outreach currently runs a transitional housing program for women and children, but he says that location would be too inaccessible for the Peninsula''s homeless and needy who depend on its services every day.
Smith has met with officials in Seaside and Sand City to ask for another home for the soup kitchen. Nothing was available. "One issue is the availability of water," says Sand City Assistant Planner Charles Pooler. "A soup kitchen is a higher water user than most of the businesses we have here in Sand City, like auto repair shops. We''re in the same crunch as every other local city--we''re trying to attract new development, and we''ve used up our water [allotment]."
The group also contacted the Oldemeyer Center, to suggest merging their meals programs. That idea was nixed before it even got onto the Seaside City Council agenda, Dini says. "They weren''t comfortable with the idea of our clients mixing with their seniors," he explains.
Smith notes that the Peninsula Outreach has a $1/year lease until the year 2017 at the Sonoma Street church, but they''re loathe to go to court against the religious group that first gave them a home.
If no new building is found by the end of the month, Smith adds, "these people will be out on the streets."
In a way, Dini says, this crisis is forcing Peninsula Outreach to do what it''s needed to do for a while: Find a larger, permanent home where it can offer counseling services as well as free hot meals to its needy Peninsula clients. He has "a couple of leads," but time is of the essence, and he urges anyone who knows of a possible site for the soup kitchen to contact Peninsula Outreach right away.
"We are turning to the community to see if anyone has an idea," Smith says. "We''re heartbroken."