One of Southern California’s best kept secrets is a small town located approximately 86 miles southeast of Los Angeles in southern Riverside County.
Temecula, California is best known for its prominent wineries, championship golf courses, and resort accommodations. Its population, according to the 2012 census is 105,208.
It is also home to an underprivileged population problem similar to those facing many other cities in the United States.
As Temecula’s homeless problem grew, it was rumored to be troubling to the tourists that visited the city and to the local residents as well. Some would describe it as a town that put out its “unwelcome mat” to those down on their luck.
Courtesy: Rancho Community Church
There was one church, however, that decided to step up and do something about the issues challenging the homeless and change the city’s tarnished image.
Rancho Community Church, one of the larger established Christian churches in the neighborhood with over 40 years of history in Temecula and its own kindegarten through 12 school, headed by pastor Scott Treadway, answered the call to help the impoverished in the community.
As part of their core values, the church believes that they are “commanded to love others, to serve and help others, to reach out to the poor, to those in our community and those across the globe with real help…”
Since 2013, the church has run a mission for the homeless called the Community Mission of Hope which “exists to help those in need toward the goal of self-sufficiency.”
The Community Mission of Hope provides food and hygiene products as well as “compassionate mentorship for the social, physical, financial and spiritual needs of local individuals and families.” Their philosophy is unlike many other organizations who only offer a short-term fix.
Due to its success in helping the homeless in the community, the City Council of Temecula decided in April 2014, that they would extend a licensed agreement to allow the Community Mission of Hope to run their pantry operations for those in need of food.
The goal of the mission and the city of Temecula is to implement a strategy of “responsible compassion toward self-sufficiency” for the people they serve within the community. It is believed that this strategy will be a successful one as it has been in other cities.
Courtesy: Rancho Community Church
No longer will the people receive only food and a blanket. The homeless population will also receive compassion, guidance, and information that will help get them back on their feet and learn to provide for themselves.
Previously, when another organization was running the pantry, those being served in the community were given a shower and some food before being sent on their way. A revolving door of the same homeless individuals and families returning each week was a pattern that provided no long-term solutions.
“We were funding someone who was handing out food and blankets to someone who would go and sell the food and sell drugs to our kids,” said Temecula’s Mayor Maryann Edwards, speaking about how the prior strategy didn’t solve the problem.
Other City Council members were also outspoken about their desire to change the policy toward the homeless population. Some members said that “Temecula could no longer be seen regionally as a destination for the areas down-and-out. Those who don’t want help, and those who want to use Temecula as a sort of campground, will be asked to leave.”
“Giving people a handout can sometimes lock them into a cycle of dependency that only serves to hinder their progress and enable destructive behaviors.” “We cannot keep giving people the same things to remain perpetually homeless,” said Treadway, whose church ascribes to the principles of grace and mercy toward others.
Courtesy: Community Mission of Hope
Treadway indicated that those clients who were working with the nonprofit on a path to self-sufficiency would also be able to use the facility as a place to get dressed for a job interview.
Treadway’s church also follows its own philosophy by being self-sufficient. The church does not wait for agencies, federally-funded or otherwise, to supply the money needed to purchase the food for the homeless population.
In early 2009, the church established, The Outreach Farm Project, a nonprofit headed by Jayne Barrett.
Barrett organizes volunteers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables on a small three acre plot of land that the church leases from a bordering city.
The organization learned quickly in 2009, during a time when there was a large shortage of food to meet the needs of the homeless in the area, that if they wanted provisions other than dry goods, they would have to take matters into their own hands and grow what was needed, according to its Facebook page.
The entire program is funded on donations and volunteers. The volunteers do everything from ground preparation, planting the seeds, working the ground and subsequently harvesting the crops.
The amount of food that this small plot of land produces each year has been nothing short of miraculous.
Their first harvest in 2010 yielded them an increase of 50,000 pounds with 75,000 pounds produced in both 2011 and 2012. The 2014 harvest far exceeded the 2011 and 2012 numbers.
All of the produce goes directly to the Community Mission for Hope for distribution to local families in need and to families throughout Southern California. The project has been a great success.
RCC appears to be the church in a small town that could and does help those in need.
The church proves that those willing to tackle community problems without searching for a handout themselves, can provide those in need with compassion, love, and self-sufficiency.
All that is needed is divine assistance and the help from those willing to donate their time and God-given talents to serving others.
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