With two pop-up tents, lots of items to give away, and spirited volunteers to make it all happen, a faith-based network of Westminster churches and the Westminster Police Department hosted a special event Saturday morning, June 11, to help the city’s homeless population.
The network, dubbed Love Westminster, set up their operation at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Trask Avenue, handing out new clothing, cooking burgers and hot dogs, and distributing hygiene kits to passersby. The kits, which contained items like deodorant and sunscreen, were part of a cheerful effort to give the homeless a leg up and potentially get them in front of someone who can help.
“Our goal is to get these folks signed up and start providing them resources,” said Cmdr. Kevin MacCormick. “But they have to meet us halfway. We figured if we came out here to them and set up, then it makes it a little bit easier to get them involved and off the streets.”
Love Westminster has been around for about two years. Members include about 10 churches, the Westminster Police Department, Westminster Hope Organization, and Family Resource Center. The group meets monthly.
MacCormick called Love Westminster a true partnership making one city in Orange County a better place.
“We can’t do these things by ourselves,” he said. “We need community help to fix our community.”
One of Love Westminster’s leaders is Pastor Paul Park of Free Life Community Church, a Free Methodist congregation based at Westminster High School. He said Saturday’s homeless outreach event was done in the spirit of mercy and compassion, not just evangelization.
“We want to make sure the community knows we’re in this together,” Park said. “We can’t solve housing issues; we can’t solve some of the resources. But what we can do is be the first step, the first touch, for the homeless community to know there is a way. There is hope. That’s why we need a partner like the Police Department, to lead them to that.”
Park added that, “with all the problems going on in the world, including homelessness, we are about making sure each person feels noticed, loved, belonged and cared for. We can’t fix everyone, but what we can do is be the foundation of care, the foundation of hope.”
Pastor Pablo Peña, lead pastor of Hope Community Church, part of the Foursquare denomination, added that Love Westminster wants “to be a light everywhere we go, and part of that is shining in places that are experiencing darkness.”
Homeless Liaison Officer Roland Perez, a department veteran of seven years, aided the homeless outreach event. He said it’s an uphill battle to get people help, noting that it can take an average of 20 contacts with people like him before a homeless person gets off the streets.
“It’s all about treating them like a human being,” he said, “because that’s what they are.”