A pastor determined to live out the Bible’s dictate that we feed the poor was shut down by local police because he didn’t have a permit to serve food.
Twice a month, Rick Wood, a pastor at The Lord’s House of Prayer in Oneonta, Alabama, gets in his truck and drives around Birmingham with more than a hundred hot dogs and bottles of water, handing them out to the homeless. Wood has been serving those in need for the past six years because he wants to put Matthew 25:35–40 — “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” a scripture verse he has plastered on the side of his truck — into action.
But last month, Wood was stopped from handing out food by local police because he was in violation of a new city ordinance, passed in December, that regulates food trucks. The new regulation requires food trucks to get a permit, which can cost as much as $500. Though the ordinance is specifically targeted at retail food vendors, rather than charities, the city nevertheless used it to block Wood.
He was livid. “That makes me so mad,” Wood said in an interview with ABC 33/40 News. “These people are hungry. They’re starving. They need help from people. They can’t afford to buy something from a food truck.”
The pastor accused Birmingham of wanting “to chase them out of the city.”
ABC 33/40 News’ video has more:
Though the homeless population has been declining in Birmingham, significant need remains. A 2013 survey found 1,469 homeless people in the Birmingham area, a figure that has declined 36 percent in the past five years but still accounts for nearly half of all homeless people in Alabama. One-third of Birmingham’s homeless, 509 people, had no shelter at all when the 2013 count was conducted.
Birmingham is not the only city to shut down groups that hand out meals to the homeless. From St. Louis to Raleigh to Philadelphia to Orlando, city governments have implemented new restrictions on charity groups that feed the homeless. Los Angeles is considering a similar measure.
Back in Birmingham, Wood has defiantly vowed to keep serving food to the homeless. “The homeless can’t help the position they’re in,” he said. “They need help.”