In the community

Ontario homeless food kitchen in danger of closing gets two-week reprieve

ONTARIO – An Ontario food kitchen that serves more than 100 meals a day to the homeless and was in danger of closing its doors will remain open, at least for the short term.

The emergency help comes as state officials cut a grant to Origins Faith Community Church that funded the meal service and counseling and addiction services. The fate of the other services to homeless provided by Origins Faith is less certain.

Frank Borst, Origins Faith board member and secretary, said Thursday, Sept. 28, he found a sponsor to fund the food kitchen for the next two weeks as the organization works to find a more permanent solution. Without the emergency help, the meal service would have closed Friday, Sept. 29.

State officials informed Origins Faith Community Church on Sept. 18 that the state was terminating a grant that helped fund the food kitchen and the agency’s addiction services. The termination was first reported by the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Borst said last week the state ended the grant because Origins Faith Community Church could no longer provide the required services.

The state awarded a $601,152 grant to Origins Faith Community Church as part of a program under Ballot Measure 110, a now controversial law passed by in 2020 that decriminalized possession of hard drugs. The measure allocated a share of the state’s marijuana revenue to treat drug addicts.

State records show Origins Faith so far had received $513,640.

Origins Faith is a member of the Pacific Northwest Association for the Church of God. Borst, who is the executive director of the association, said he found a church within the organization to fund the kitchen.

“I just bought the kitchen two weeks of time. In the next two weeks I hope to find a more permanent solution,” said Borst.

Borst said the emergency relief will allow him time to find another organization to run the daily meal service.

Borst said he is in active conversations with a Treasure Valley organization about taking over the kitchen for the long term.

“The party we are talking to is very interested in continuing services there,” he said.

Borst declined to name the organization because negotiations were underway.

The future of the agency’s addiction services – called the Origins Faith Community Outreach – is less clear, he said.

“We haven’t stopped trying to figure out if we can build a future for the outreach initiative. Those conversations are continuing,” he said.

The potential loss of the food kitchen was a serious concern for the city, said Mike Iwai, Ontario police chief.

“This is a service we need, especially since the majority of the folks we are serving are high need, in terms of substance abuse and being unhoused,” said Iwai.

Iwai said he reached out to Borst after he discovered the state grant was going to be discontinued.

“He heard from me that it doesn’t work when we are feeding 125 people and providing 20 showers to folks who are unhoused and used to that service and then it’s gone,” he said.

Iwai said the news the kitchen will be open for at least two more weeks was welcome.

“A temporary fix of two weeks is good and I hope they are working on a long-term plan,” he said.

Penny Bakefelt, Ontario city councilor, said the Origins facility is a crucial resource for the homeless.

“I think the kitchen and showers are very important to those 120-125 people who go there daily for their meals and showers. I am hopeful that a solution will be found before it becomes a hardship on those affected,” said Bakefelt.

Ontario is not in a position to help the facility financially, said Dan Cummings, Ontario city manager.

“I don’t have money just sitting around. We don’t have it in our budget,” said Cummings.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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