Pittsburgh churches

Food Pantry faces eviction after years of helping Atlanta’s southwest neighborhood

The busiest day at New Pittsburgh Kingdom Doors Baptist Church isn’t Sunday, it’s Saturday.

That’s when the church in its white shotgun house in the middle of the Pittsburgh neighborhood in southwest Atlanta opens a pantry.

At 10 a.m., Pastor Anthony Shaw greets one of the first people to approach the church porch.

“Hello,” he said. “What’s your first name again?” “

On the table behind Shaw, boxes of food – including fruits, vegetables and dairy – he and volunteers prepared to donate.

“We give them everything from the five food groups to condiments. You name it; we give it to them, ”he said.

Pastor Anthony Shaw focused on expanding the church‘s pantry when he became pastor of Kingdom Doors three years ago. He wanted the church to be a community resource. (Stéphannie Stokes / WABE)

The pantry has been Shaw’s project since he became pastor of the church three years ago. He says he realized the need in Pittsburgh, especially recently. The neighborhood, still marked by abandoned homes and vacant lots, has sparked new investor interest due to its proximity to downtown and the Atlanta BeltLine.

“It’s desperate in this community. You see prostitution, and you see drugs, but the biggest problem is homelessness, ”Shaw says.

Rising rents and house prices that accompany the appreciating housing market are choking residents, he says.

Shaw therefore decided to make his church more than a place for people to gather on Sundays. He wanted Kingdom Doors to be a community resource. He registered the church as a distributor for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

“We’re very intentional,” he says.

But now, having developed this neighborhood resource over the past several years, the church finds that it faces a similar challenge for the people it serves.

Its owner filed for eviction last month. He wants to sell the property. Soon, Kingdom Doors will be homeless.

And with it, help the community that forms each week on this narrow Pittsburgh street.

Shortly after the pantry opens at 10 a.m., a crowd begins to form in front of the church. People stand at a distance in the church yard, on the sidewalk and in the street.

Timothy Jones is waiting at the side for his box of food. He spent half of his life in Pittsburgh. Her grandmother used to live in her own shotgun house on this street.

“So I remember sitting right in the front room watching TV when I was a kid,” he says.

This house is long gone, he says. Today Jones does not have a permanent home.

He says he doesn’t want the neighborhood to lose help from Kingdom Doors just because Pittsburgh is changing and new people are buying renovated homes.

“That’s how they got here with the big houses: help yourself,” Jones says. “So we still need it.”

Amparo Goitia reviews his food box for Kingdom Doors week. She says, since finding the church, “for the first time in my life my fridge is full”. (Stéphannie Stokes / WABE)

As families begin to receive their boxes of food, a woman named Amparo Goitia smiles from the cemetery, sitting in the motorized wheelchair that brought her here.

She has been in Pittsburgh for 30 years. At one point, she was homeless. Now she rents a house a few blocks away.

She says she couldn’t survive without Kingdom Doors.

“They take care of me with my meds and stuff. They take care of everything I need around the house, ”explains Goitia. “For the first time in my life, my fridge is full. “

She is 77 years old and her arthritis makes it difficult for her to move. So she said it was a struggle for food. She could only shop at convenience stores with high prices.

Now Pastor Shaw and the church are providing him with boxes that include veggie burgers, fresh ginger, and tortillas.

“And he gave me a big ball of cheese with jalapeño in it. Oh my God, am I in love with this? said Goitia.

She remains cheerful looking at the small house in the church. It’s cramped inside, she said. Maybe it’s time for a new place.

“I’m just praying that the church is near me,” said Goitia.

Throughout the morning, 12-year-old twins were kept busy on the porch, helping to prepare the food packages. They don’t stop until most families have been served.

Brian and Brandon come alone to volunteer. There’s a picture of them inside, just baptized, with big smiles on their faces.

Brian and Brandon live on the streets with their grandmother. They come to church to volunteer. (Stéphannie Stokes / WABE)

They live with their grandmother down the road. They’re sure Pastor Shaw will pick them up when the church moves.

“I hope they find a new location, like a good new location, and I pray for them,” Brandon says.

However, it is difficult for Kingdom Doors to find a new location.

Shaw’s stepfather, who was a pastor before him, had an agreement to buy his current home for the past eight years. The church only had to pay for utilities and maintain the property, as the owner’s real estate agent also points out.

Now the house and others in the neighborhood have become more valuable. Pastor Shaw noticed the church trying to move.

“There are vacant churches that we could acquire, but the price is high,” he says.

Shaw’s already not taking a salary. He is a volunteer pastor. And its members gave in cents or out of their fixed income.

The New Pittsburgh Kingdom Doors Church has set out to help low-income families in the community amid rising rents and house prices. Now new developments have called the future of the church into question. (Stéphannie Stokes / WABE)

For now, the church hopes an online fundraiser will help him find a new home.

For Shaw, the Kingdom Doors experience reflects what is happening in Pittsburgh as a whole and the intentions of investors and developers in that neighborhood.

“It’s to make as much money as possible. That’s what’s being dictated right now, ”says Shaw. “If you change those intentions, then you could change the fate of this community. That’s it.”

By noon, about 40 families collected boxes of food from the Kingdom Doors pantry. And the block emptied.

It’s still not clear how many Saturdays the church can have its pantry on this street in Pittsburgh. The eviction from the church is pending in Fulton County Court.

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