Question of religious faith sparks fund-raising for barbecue to feed Ocean Beach homeless

Money that was raised from what organizers described as a “social experiment” was used to throw a free barbecue Saturday afternoon at Ocean Beach Park benefitting the area’s local homeless population.

At the Wednesday farmer’s market on Newport Avenue, a handful of bowls were placed under a sign asking “Which religion cares more about the homeless?” Over a dozen bowls were set out in front of Ocean Beach International Hostel, each tagged with a different faith, and passers-by were solicited to select one to place a donation.

“I think it’s important that if you see a need in the community to try to fill it,” says John Best, who works in guest relations at the hostel and says he faced homelessness himself in Kentucky before coming to San Diego and finding work about five months ago.

“We only had two holy wars,” said Best of the fund-raising process. One woman unsuccessfully demanded that money placed in the “Atheists: Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” bowl be moved instead and credited to the Catholic faith. Rather than donating herself, Best says he was told she intended to host a cookout of her own, which he encouraged.

The other? “One guy offered us a hundred dollars to set the Muslim bowl on fire.”

Overall, the group raised $111.13, which loaded a concrete table with hot dogs, buns, condiments, and small bags of chips and candies. The total reportedly broke down as follows: $39.34 from atheists, $13.27 from “spiritual, non-denominational,” $11.63 from Catholics, $10.56 from Christians, $7.27 from agnostics, $5.91 from Buddhists, $5.12 from Jews, $3.61 from Hindus, $3.02 from Protestants, $2.50 from Mormons, $2.04 from Satanists, $2 from Hare Krishnas, and $1.84 from Muslims.

Thirty or so individuals had arrived within a half hour of the barbecue’s announced starting time of noon, and Best said that other volunteers were walking around between the park and the foot of Newport spreading the word, with more attendees expected to trickle in over the next hour.

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