SAN ANTONIO – Street pastor Brian Wickes has been feeding and ministering to San Antonio's homeless population for almost 20 years.
Wickes said he buys food from H-E-B because he wants it to be fresh for when he prepares thousands of meals monthly for the homeless.
"It's important to meet people where they are. These are people that do not respond well to institutionalized settings," Wickes said. "Our way of meeting them in the streets and gaining their trust is a much more effective way of helping them heal and reeling them in from homelessness. We use food as bait to minister the word of God to them."
Wickes, a construction contractor, said that a recent compromise between the city and individuals who feed homeless people could not have happened soon enough.
"After a five- to six-year battle it looks like the city (is) finally willing to compromise," Wickes said.
Wickes was referring to efforts by the Department of Human Services and the San Antonio Police Department to free homeless feeders from the regulations that cover commercial street vendors, such as food trucks.
DHS Director Melody Woosley and SAPD Chief William McManus teamed up to create a proposal to more effectively address and feed San Antonio's homeless hungry and to ensure food handler safety.
Woosley said current city code presents roadblocks to those that want to feed the homeless.
"City code currently doesn't address the issue of how to facilitate benevolent and charitable feeders to effectively and safely feed San Antonio's homeless population," she said.
McManus said they have a new effort in place.
"We now have a multidisciplinary approach where we have professionals trained in a variety of disciplines working together as a team on the streets to try to help," McManus said.
McManus said police departments have typically tried for years to "arrest their way out of the homeless problem but it doesn't work."
Wickes said he appreciates the progress but still struggles with some skepticism.
"They still have their ways to try to run the homeless out of downtown or into institutions," he said.
If the proposal is successful, Woosley said it could go into effect next May.