EDITORS'S NOTE: As of Monday October 10, 2016 the hot meals program has reopened at a new location.
The Merced County Rescue Mission is looking for a new home for its hot meals program.
The mission stopped serving meals at its Canal Street location last Friday. Executive Director Bruce Metcalf says the temporary closure was prompted after complaints about the homeless from the members of the Central Presbyterian Church, which is across the street. He added that the mission wants to be a "good neighbor."
Metcalf: “Some of the people that attend there with their young children are simply uncomfortable with some of the guests that we serve.”
That’s left hundreds of people who rely on the mission for food everyday searching for a meal. On average the mission provides 150,000 meals a year, three times a day.
The search for a new location hasn’t been easy. The mission had identified a temporary location downtown, but Metcalf says it also faced community opposition.
Now he hopes another church in the Merced area might be willing to help provide a home to the program.
Metcalf: “We’re actually meeting with a church tomorrow evening and we’re very hopeful that we might have a location and that our total downtime might be less than a week.”
Recent media coverage of the meals program has also created a problem - leading some people to believe the entire Rescue Mission has closed. He stressed that’s not true, and the existing building on Canal Street is still home to shelters, showers and treatment programs for the homeless.
According to Metcalf the mission is working with the city and the County of Merced to find a long term home for an expanded campus that can house all of the organization's services.
Representatives of the Central Presbyterian Church didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment on this story.