Iron Gate is one of the most important suppliers of food to hungry people in Tulsa. In 2013, Iron Gate provided food to 309,370 people.
Some context: approximately one in every six Oklahomans—and one in every four Oklahoma children—struggles with hunger on a daily basis.
Iron Gate just finished fighting for the right to move into the Pearl District at 3rd and Peoria.
As it stands, Iron Gate is housed at Trinity Episcopal Church downtown, at 5th and Cincinnati.
It is in the Deco district downtown, which includes popular businesses like Mod’s and Elote.
As of Tuesday, Aug. 8, the Tulsa Board of Adjustment voted “no”—Iron Gate will not be allowed to build a soup kitchen in the Pearl District. It was a 2-2 vote.
Business owners in the Pearl District have expressed relief, citing concerns about vandalism or robberies due to the low income and impoverished folks who might have otherwise been wandering around the Pearl District because of the soup kitchen.
Iron Gate’s team argues that the 3rd and Peoria location would have been better for their clients because it is near a bus station and many of their clients are located in that area.
It would also have been very close to Indian Health Services, which is important due to the demographics of Iron Gate’s clients.
Only 25 percent of folks who utilize Iron Gate’s soup kitchen are homeless, and only 13 percent of those who receive emergency groceries are.
45 percent of Iron Gate’s clients are white, 30 percent are Native American, and 25 percent are black.
The opinions of many of the business owners in the Pearl District set an alarming precedent.
Classifying certain human beings as desirable and others as undesirable is dangerous.
This “othering” of certain members of Tulsa’s population is incredibly unfair, and putting profits before people is always damaging, which is exactly what the Pearl District did in this case.
It is important to be aware that at Iron Gate’s current location they serve hundreds of people every day, and they are within a block of several of downtown Tulsa’s most popular restaurants. It seems very unlikely that anyone is choosing not to go to The Vault or Elote because of the soup kitchen down the street.
Iron Gate’s proposed 4 million dollar building would have had enough space for the hundreds of folks who utilize Iron Gate’s services every day to be inside. They would not have had to congregate outdoors as they currently do downtown.
The location would, if anything, have discouraged “undesirable” folks from wandering aimlessly around the Pearl District. It would have provided a roof, heating, AC and free food. Someone who is hungry, or wet, or overheated or frostbitten is likely to choose to be inside if they have any other option.
The Pearl District’s fight against Iron Gate illustrates that they are not on the side of community, but on the side of gentrification and money.
The Pearl District has revitalized part of Tulsa that was extremely stagnant. The businesses are incredibly successful in that part of town, due in large part to location and neighborhood.
But in spite of getting incredible support from the Tulsa community, the Pearl District has opted against giving back.