A news clipping online states that a church closed its food bank “because it attracted poor people.” Is the story real or a hoax?
The story is true, but the details are disputed.
Although many readers have shared it with the belief that it is a current event, this story actually dates back to the year 2000.
Let’s take a look at the original story:
A busy church food bank, known for offering warm drinks and snacks to its regulars, has announced it’s closing because it is attracting too many poor people.
“‘It’s attracting a lot of street people that made it uncomfortable,’ said Charlotte Prossen, Unity Truth Centre minister Thursday, ‘It’s creating social unrest in the church’
“A food bank is a social service and that is not who we are.”
Ms. Prossen said the program is being cancelled to focus on more church-specific activities. The church’s board of trustees made the decision to cancel the bimonthly food bank after receiving an e-mail from a sister church in Victoria.
“Most clients of food banks have not yet come to a sense of personal responsibility in life. They are still in denial, blame or seeing the world as owing them,” wrote Rev. David Durksen of the Unity Church of Victoria.
Ms. Prossen praised the work done by food banks, and said the church will still collect food for baskets but focus more on people’s spiritual hunger.
Surges in sharing of the story above peaked in August through September in 2011. It reappeared in heavy circulation in February 2013, and circulated with high frequency several times in 2014.
The image above attributes this story to The Ottawa Citizen, but the article in the image does not appear to be archived online. There is, however, a follow-up story which can be verified from CBC News dated February 21, 2000 in which the church defends its decision and disputes the details in the report.
In this follow-up, we read that Ms. Prossen had only been the church’s minister for two months at that time, and that some in the congregation wanted the food bank to remain. She denied the report that the bank was shut down due to “street people” but due to other situations including concerns that it was not covered by the church’s insurance. Prossen also cited other unspecified “unpleasant” and “unfortunate” situations which also led to the decision to close the food bank.
Although she denied the claim that church members were uncomfortable with the people attracted to the food bank, it isn’t clear if Prossen directly refuted the quotes attributed to her in the original Ottawa Citizen report.
Charlotte Prossen, who was hired out of the U.S. in 1999, has not been with the church since the year of this incident.
In 2000 a Canadian newspaper reported that a church closed its food bank because it “attracted poor people.” While the food bank did close, the details of the report were disputed by the church.
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Updated June 16, 2016
Originally published February 2013