Typically up to 50 homeless people come off the streets every day to eat lunch at Friendship House in Mount Vernon. That has been the case for 32 years.

These days, however, the doors are increasingly closed.

"It makes me feel horrible to turn someone away that I know is in need of a meal," said Executive Director Tina Tate.

Like many cities, the homeless problem in Mount Vernon is growing.

Friendship House is the only facility in town that serves the needy three meals a day, but that has brought an increase in crime to a part of downtown.

"We're regularly having to clean up needles, feces, and vomit," said Pastor Jim Fikkert, whose church sits right across the street from Friendship House. "We even had a fire set recently."

Fikkert is among the community and business leaders in Mount Vernon who have had enough. They say they are not anti-homeless but have no choice but to push back on the crime that comes with a certain segment of that population.

"Many people are just choosing not to deal with the discomfort and sometimes downright feeling of a lack of safety downtown, and they're deciding not to shop here," said Ellen Gamson of the Mount Vernon Downtown Association. "We can't have that."

Bowing to that pressure, Friendship House is cutting its meal program -- no longer serving breakfast and lunch at its neighborhood location. Dinner will still be served.

The organization has now set up shop a few miles away in the parking lot of Farmstrong Brewing, handing out sack lunches.

The idea is that by spreading the meals over a larger area, the criminal element will won't be so concentrated downtown and problems will decrease.

Through the first four days of the experiment, however, only seven people have made the trek to the new location for lunch.

It's leaving Tina Tate wondering whether this is doing more harm than good.

"I think the stores are going to see more thefts of food and you're going to see a lot of angry, hungry people walking around during the day," Tate said. "Desperate people do desperate things."

The city is working to target the individuals causing the crime, as well as looking into opening a day shelter and building additional housing, according to Peter Donovan of the Mayor's Office.

Tate is working with police to collect crime data over the next 90 days to determine whether the experiment is part of a solution to the homeless epidemic or simply adding to the problem.