Hoaxes & Rumors

Did a Church Close Food Bank Because it Attracted Poor People?

Did a Church Close Food Bank Because it Attracted Poor People?

A news clipping online states that a church closed its food bank “because it attracted poor people.” Is the story real or a hoax?

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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.

This image of a news article is being circulated with this story from 2000.

Surges in sharing of the story above peaked in August through September in 2011. It reappeared in heavy circulation in February 2013, and has circulated with high frequency several times in 2014.

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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 Feburary 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.

Bottom Line

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.

What do you think of this story?

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  • Gary D.

    Sorry folks, we only want to do churchy stuff with our regular clientele. If you would like to apply to become one of us please join us on Sunday so that me may give you a thorough perusal. If you are accepted into our ranks then you will be welcome to dine with us.

  • Red Molly

    Having tracked this down from a recent re-post to Facebook, I’m sure there is more to this story than what we’re able to glean from the two available articles; it seems as if the church was only providing the physical space for another organisation to run the food bank. This CAN present difficulties (e.g. the mention of insurance coverage; also, if they did/do not own the property, they could have issues with their landlord). The organisation for which I work runs a food bank on our property; we sometimes encounter issues with the surrounding shops and residents. I can understand not wanting to air dirty laundry, yet it seems an awful lot got made public that should have been addressed openly rather than the way it was — especially if any of it was taken out of context.

    I am, in fact, more curious about Rev Durksen than Rev Prossen. She obviously let herself be influenced by him, but I’m fairly certain their situations were hardly comparable. (Victoria vs Winnepeg? Seriously???) I’m also very suspicious that Rev Durksen is a flaming racist, inasmuch as a significant proportion of Victoria’s homeless are First Nations.

    Whilst Unity is by philosophy more spiritual than worldly, their stance of practicing the religion ‘OF Jesus Christ’ rather than ‘ABOUT Jesus Christ’ indicates they should understand that his ministry fed both soul AND body. It seems as if that was the case when they supported the food bank — not so much by the idea of focusing on ‘church-specific’ activities instead.

    Still and all, nice to see that the Winnepeg congregation apparently decided they were better off without leadership than with the kind they were getting. Hope their current ‘spiritual leader’ has achieved a balance.

    • waffles

      We agree that there is probably a lot more to the story we did not read.

  • aPerson

    I got the feeling they were trying to bring their congregation together and non members started to show. They were doing it for spiritual reasons and the people that came only wanted the food. The thing that bothers me is how people look at them as in the wrong but it didn’t say they were turning people away, just shutting it down because it wasn’t the intended goal. At least they did feed them while it was going. They did a good thing, but quit for whatever reasons that are their own. How horrible!

  • random

    Give all your belongings to the poor, unless it brings “street people.” This had obviously nothing to do with money as it did with being uncomfortable with the poor.

  • Timothy Campbell

    I can picture a situation where a church endeavors to help people who are in difficult circumstances and then finds that the project has escalated far beyond their ability to cope. They might still care about helping but in the absence of divine intervention they simply can’t handle the demand.

    In a way, this is comparable to what has happened to many commercial endeavors, wherein a company finds that it is so successful that it cannot keep up with demand. It tries to ramp up but quality suffers, workers get burned out, and the whole thing comes crashing down.

    Perhaps, at some time in the future, the same church will try again with a less ambitious project. I salute them for at least trying, even if they found that they couldn’t quite make it happen.


    I agree David and our food bank at Church is for members and those walking the streets in need of food, we are looking for more of the community and less fortunate to come and not only our Church members, so something is wrong with this picture, just sad :(

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