Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: More U.S. Cities Are Banning Feeding the Homeless


#1

news.yahoo.com/dont-let-them-eat-cake-more-u-cities-003510665.html

Reading through the latest report from the National Coalition for the Homeless might spark one of those moments when you wonder, what would Marie Antoinette say? French peasants who had no bread to eat were so enraged by rumors that their queen uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake” that she ended up decapitated. Well, the coalition’s modern-day researchers found that since January 2013, 21 cities have restricted or flat-out banned feeding the homeless at all—and 10 municipalities have similar ordinances in the works.

At the heart of the bans and restrictions, write the authors, is the misguided belief that feeding people who are sleeping on the streets or in shelters encourages homelessness. Apparently, some of our nation’s politicians and policy makers are convinced that thousands of Americans are so eager for a free bowl from a soup kitchen that they’ll quit their jobs and begin sleeping in doorways and on bus benches to get it.

According to the report, a consultant on homelessness named Robert Marbut visited more than 60 communities in 2013 and 2014, giving talks about how dishing out hot meals to homeless people enables them to remain homeless.

“If you feed people in parks or on a street, or drive your car up and give 14 meals out of the back of your car, all you’re doing is growing homelessness,” Marbut said in one speech, according to the report. “If you want to dramatically change how [a city] deals with the homeless, align your feeding with all the holistic services. And the only place people should ever be fed is where you’re in a 24/7 program that’s holistic that deals with all the issues.”
In contrast, the coalition’s researchers note that programs that provide people with meals are often “the only way some homeless individuals will have access to healthy, safe food on a given day.” They go on to clarify that people become or remain homeless because of “lack of affordable housing, lack of job opportunity, mental health or physical disability”—not because someone’s giving them a plate of chicken.

Bans and restrictions on feeding folks who live on the streets are just one example of the draconian laws being passed nationwide to criminalize homelessness. A report released in July by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that 76 percent of towns surveyed have prohibited begging.

Providing people with a place to live—whether it’s a tiny house like the ones being built in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore., or a small unit in an apartment building, as has been done in Charlotte, N.C.—and connecting them to those holistic services is what’s been proved to alleviate homelessness.
The coalition also recommends adding homeless people to antidiscrimination laws, which could protect them from punitive bans. But as long as elected officials and policy makers continue to try to drive away people on the street instead of helping them, these kinds of restrictions are likely to keep popping up. Unless, of course, Americans have a Marie Antoinette moment and decide that enough is enough with crushing folks who need help the most—no decapitation required.


#2

Interesting. I’ve never known someone to say, “Gee, if I’m homeless, someone will give me free food, so let me just give up my place and live in the street.”


#3

I live next to a major metropolitan city, and therefore the city where I live and other neighboring cities have all kinds of bans on soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They all want the major city to take care of all the homeless.

My city has a ban on both homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The Salvation Army frequently lets people camp out in their front yard in protest of this. The Evangelical ecclesial communities tend to feed people anyway, usually in public parks. The Methodists are particularly friendly to the homeless here. For a long time, not sure if it still exists, they ran a shower program two days a week. Monday and Friday you could shower, shave, eat, and sometimes even get some clean socks and underwear. A nice elderly lady did it all with the blessing of her pastor. She really changed lives.


#4

Not long ago I visited Yosemite National Park. I was sitting on the patio of the Ahwahnee Hotel feeding a little chipmunk crumbs from my sandwich. Out of nowhere appeared a large woman in a Ranger uniform who told me to stop feeding the chipmunk. I said “Why? He’s cute and he’s hungry.” She informed me that it was against the law to feed the animals because they become DEPENDENT on humans and do not provide for themselves.

Sounds to me like the cities that are banning the feeding of the homeless are just following the National Park Service rules.


#5

False. Couldn’t be further from the truth. I volunteer for a large Catholic charity, and we always take the opportunity given to us by hungry people, to minister to them in their suffering, find out their needs, and offer them resources so that they can lift themselves out of poverty.

A request for a food box is always met with a prescreen phone interview and then a home visit. Sometimes people only need one food box to get them through a short crisis. They lost their job and they found a new one and they have a few weeks worth of gap until they are paid again. They might need a food box and a partial rent payment so that they can weather the storm. Some crises might be longer term. We might need to help them find new employment, or apply for benefits so that they are not evicted from their home, and their utilities are not shut off.

Sometimes we find people in more dire straits. They are already on the streets and they might be just out of prison, or have mental health or substance abuse issues that makes them a poor candidate for shelters. They come seeking a shower and food and clothes. It is our job to get them what they need and also to go the extra mile to give them the resources they need to get a job (or get benefits, or get clean and sober,) and get off the streets.

Our mission is not just a physical one to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless, but these are important corporal works of mercy (Church doctrine defines these clearly.) They are linked with the spiritual works of mercy and we never forget that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the Mouth of God.


#6

By NO means should homeless people be removed from public streets or places just because they’re homeless. Only from privately owned property such as malls or parking lots should they be removed .

…and yes, the homeless should be a protected class of citizens. They should never be discriminated against. Anyone can give free food whomever they want -I will NEVER follow any law that tells me otherwise. :cool:


#7

:eek:


#8

It’s wonderful to hear that some one is “doing it right”

I think Ben Franklin said it best:

“I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”


#9

My father is involved with a similar charitable group. Good luck with your admirable work Elizium.


#10

But, then again, Ben Franklin is not the subject of the Gospel,


#11

Apparently now the homeless are being seen as wild animals – we shouldn’t be “encouraging” them by feeding them. :eek: What a sad sign of our communities’ demise.


#12

I actually think the problem may be more complex than some people think.

I don’t think feeding the homeless encourages homelessness. I do think it may encourage dependency, which is a bad thing.

Also, one must remember that “homeless” includes lots of folks: those down on their luck; drug addicts (or at least drug users); those with mental illnesses; those who are really, really poor, etc.

Remember also that where there are homeless, there is crime; drug use (some of these folks, as I said, are users); filth (if you’re sleeping in the street, you’re urinating there too) and other ills like panhandling, some of which can get aggressive. If homeless people learn that location X will give them free food every Wednesday afternoon, eventually they will begin congregating at X on Wednesday morning. If there’s enough food, some will probably come Tuesday and panhandle, then urinate in doorways and sleep in the gutter overnight.

Would you like to live in neighborhood X? Would you like it when your car has it’s tires urinated on? How about when you come outside and find a homeless man in your doorway? How about when your neighbor’s home is broken into? How about yours? Or your neighbor gets fed up and leaves and homeless squatters take up residence?

I am not saying we should be uncharitable. I am saying the bans are at least understandable.


#13

Part of the chore of running a charity for the less-fortunate is knowing how to be a good neighbor. Yes, people suffer from NIMBY syndrome. Once you receive permission to operate a charity in a neighborhood, it is important to make sure that your neighbors don’t regret your presence there.

My mother participates in a program which feeds the hungry (not everyone who is hungry and needy, is homeless) and it is very important to her that trash is picked up, people are not camping out and forming lines early in the morning or even the night before, and fights and disturbances are strongly discouraged. The neighbors have commented to them on more than one occasion that they were pleased with their performance in these areas. The people in the feeding program often leave the grounds cleaner than when they arrived.


#14

I think you make a fair point PolarGuy. Feeding the homeless would attract more homeless to a certain area and potentially more crime. I think the Church always needs to be mindful of this when we instigate such programs and talk to any residents that might be affected. As you suggest, it is important that other charitable acts in conjunction with providing meals need to be continued to be seen as vitally important in helping people who are currently struggling in their lives.


#15

It is sad that people have such an attitude toward the poor that they are equated with crime, filth and drugs. There are poor people with dignity, more dignity than anyone else. There are poor people who suffer from prejudice and injustice. There are poor people who struggle to be understood, to lift themselves out of poverty, to make their way in life when nobody wants them around.

There are homeless people around you right now who don’t look homeless. They find a place to shower, a place to launder their clothes, and a place to stash their backpack, and they walk into the library and act like anyone else you would meet. There are people who smell awful and carry lots of bags and ride the bus to and from their home. Their lack of hygiene may be due to mental illness or phobias. They may be victims of childhood abuse or domestic violence.

The sooner you start seeing Christ in one another, the sooner you will lose your prejudice against the homeless, and you will see beauty where others only see filth, drugs, and crime.


#16

from the article:

“If you feed people in parks or on a street, or drive your car up and give 14 meals out of the back of your car, all you’re doing is growing homelessness,” Marbut said in one speech, according to the report. “If you want to dramatically change how [a city] deals with the homeless, align your feeding with all the holistic services. And the only place people should ever be fed is where you’re in a 24/7 program that’s holistic that deals with all the issues.”

In contrast, the coalition’s researchers note that programs that provide people with meals are often “the only way some homeless individuals will have access to healthy, safe food on a given day.” They go on to clarify that people become or remain homeless because of “lack of affordable housing, lack of job opportunity, mental health or physical disability”—not because someone’s giving them a plate of chicken.

Well, what if there aren’t any “holistic services” available? Or the city refuses to provide them on the theory that “if you build it they will come”?

During Mayor Bloomberg’s reign in NYC churches, temples, &c were forbidden to distribute meals to the homeless or even donate to shelters because their nutritional value wasn’t labeled – this is the Mussolini attitude “nothing outside the State” that wants all services run by govt-sanctioned professionals with no room for private charity.

As for the “don’t feed the animals” attitude, what can I say? According to orthodox capitalist theory you get more of what you subsidise and less of what you tax, so maybe we could tax poverty until it disappears, no?

Americans hate poverty as a moral failing and thus hate poor people. A lot of this legislation banning feeding of the homeless (and laws against loitering &c) are being passed in smaller cities and suburbs where folks have an attitude, “I moved here to get away from this” and they don’t even want to see this!


#17

Even if only simple pre-fabrications, we should be getting to where we can house the homeless, let alone feed them. Some cities are setting up these kinds of shelters. I’d be hard pressed to find a story on them now but similar to these:

From the news story: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=914435

Nothing grand but definitely a shelter.


#18

My friend is a volunteer for the Mad Housers in Atlanta, GA. He works with the homeless, closely, and has many success stories about people who are much better off after they have some shelter and dignity. He is not a Christian, but he is exercising one of the Corporal Works of Mercy nonetheless.


#19

That man did a lot of stupid things, and this is near the top of the list


#20

Chipmunk exclusion is an important part of our Department of the Interior’s master plan - this female ranger was not only on the spot … but spot ON! :rolleyes:

Enjoyed your story Zoltan. In giving both sides of how best to solve the problem, it’s thought provoking too.

The old adage “give a man a fish and he’ll be hungry tomorrow, give him a fishing pole and he can feed HIMSELF tomorrow (and thereafter) …” has some truth and wisdom to it. Not sure what the chipmunk corollary to that would be though. :shrug:

“I was hungry and you fed me …” is rather better than that per wisdom (along with ITS corollary “I was hungry and you did NOT feed me …”). So (I reason) your “why not …” answer applied to a homeless*** person*** would be more than valid - even if theoretically there might be a BETTER way to do things on the whole.

Cities vary on their laws regarding vagrancy, loitering, soliciting, etc. - and I’d agree that some cities may opt for the same rationale as you got from the ranger regarding “feeding the homeless”. The motives could vary. Tough love that will cause some people to be more independent is a good motive (if not always the best guide on a case per case basis). Territorial marking (don’t tread on the toes of big government which OUGHT to be in charge of everything … with other efforts being suspicious and meddlesome :rolleyes:) - not such a good motive (in my opinion).

When the argument is between what is the better level of “good” - there should not be an accusation of wrongdoing on anyone’s part. Hopefully the ranger spoke gently and respectfully to you - as a well-meaning citizen she was serving versus an environmental vandal deliberately causing havoc throughout the food chain, etc.

The headline of this thread (I must go and read the initial article - I am commenting without doing so at this point) plays up the controversial angle of the problem. Which the “news” industry does to sell its product. We individuals need discernment in knowing what to do personally when confronted with a person in need. As it’s true that sometimes a dilemma leads us to have to select “the lesser of two evils” - it would seem that choosing the “greater of two goods” would be good discernment as well. God knows the intent of our hearts - but HOW to best love our neighbor, even the “least of (His) brethren” sometimes
takes a little listening to - and obeying - the Holy Spirit (which usually challenges the petty and selfish parts of us).


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