Los Angeles Considers Ban on Publicly Feeding Homeless People

Despite government agencies, such as the Los Angeles Homeless
Services Authority, spending $82 million per year to help the
city’s homeless, Los Angeles has the second-highest homeless
population in the country at 53,800

to help mitigate the problem, organizations like the Greater West Hollywood Food
 serve nightly hot meals to long lines of hungry
residents in mobile food trucks parked at various parts of the
city. The GWHFC, which has been operating for 27 years staffed by
volunteers, prides itself on providing up to 200 meals per night,
as well as offering emotional support and “specific, practical
help” to its patrons when possible. Their motto is “I Am My
Brother’s Keeper.”

Not everyone is pleased with the charity’s presence though.

Two members of the Los Angeles City Council
recently proposed an
ordinance that would ban private charities and individuals from
feeding homeless people in public. The politicians behind the
legislation, Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell (both Democrats), have
said they are responding to concerns from residents who are
uncomfortable with the homeless spending lots of time around their

One such resident, Alexander Polinsky, an actor who lives two
blocks from the popular bread line,
the New York Times: 

If you give out free food on the street with no other services
to deal with the collateral damage, you get hundreds of people
beginning to squat. They are living in my bushes and they are
living in my next door neighbor’s crawl spaces. We have a
neighborhood which now seems like a mental ward.

Essentially, Councilman LaBonge
, the charitable food line is creating a public nuisance.
“[It] has overwhelmed what is a residential neighborhood,” he told
the Times. “When dinner is served, everybody comes and
it’s kind of a free-for-all.”

Opponents of the ban have expressed their frustration at what
they consider heartless, overreaching legislation. 

“This is an attempt to make difficult problems disappear,” Jerry
Jones, the executive director of the National Coalition for the
 told the Times, adding, “It’s both
callous and ineffective.”

Debra Morris, a patron of the Greater West Hollywood Food
Coalition, said that the organization is “helping human beings,” as
she was seated in a wheelchair enjoying the evening’s offering of
pasta with tomato sauce. “I can barely pay my own rent.”

If Los Angeles enacts the ordinance, the Times
reports, it will join more than 30 other cities “that have
adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict
the public feeding of the homeless.” Last year for instance,

Mayor Bloomberg banned
 food donations to the homeless in
New York City on the grounds that the city couldn’t assess the
food’s salt, fat, and fiber content. In Orlando, Florida, police
arrested volunteers
feeding homeless people in parks
for violating a city ordinance. The National Coalition for the
Homeless calls the trend the “criminalization
of homelessness in U.S. cities

In the Atlantic Cities, Emily Badger

These laws…look like attempts to push the homeless out of
public view. If a city can’t get rid of these people, in other
words, maybe it can get rid of the activities that so visibly
attract them.

If the purpose of the legislation is to reduce the presence of
homeless people in public though, then why don’t cities ban
homelessness outright? It turns out that politicians actually tried
just that in Los Angeles in the early 2000’s. The city passed an
ordinance that made it illegal to sleep on the street. However, a
judge eventually
 it as unconstitutional. 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/27/los-angeles-considers-ban-on-publicly-fe

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