Birmingham striving for consistency among ministries to homeless

Birmingham Mayor William Bell is striving for consistency when it comes to ministries serving the metro-area homeless.

Several were forced to stop serving underneath interstates and in parks because of the city's food truck ordinance.

{}"Thursday a week ago we were serving about 75 homeless people, and Birmingham police showed up and starting barking orders that this food service be shut down," said Don Williams with Bridge Builders Ministries.

"I thought, 'Is this America or is this Russia?'" added Williams. "We are here serving people who for the most part can't do it for themselves."

Other ministries serve every other Saturday passing out hot dogs and bottled water.

"I've been doing it for about six years now," said Minister Rick Wood with the Lord's House of Prayer in Oneonta.

When asked about how the ordinance impacts those serving, Mayor William Bell replied: "What's the quality of that hot dog? Where did it come from? What I'm trying to point out to you is the inconsistencies we are trying to address."

Mayor Bell said the city's goal is consistency.

"What's the quality of that hot dog, and where did it come from?" he asked. "We want everybody to meet the need of the homeless, but there has to be some consistency."

Michelle Farley with One Roof, the coordinating body for homeless services in a three-county area, sees the ordinance as a positive one for ministries, adding it gives them the opportunity to join with service providers.

"So you don't just get a meal for the day," said Farley. "You get a way out of homelessness."

Williams plans to continue his fight for a permit. In the meantime, he will serve beginning Tuesday at The Church of the Reconciler.