Bans on feeding homeless facing backlash
posted at 8:19 am on March 10, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
You’d think this was a bad joke, but many cities have passed laws that ban or all but prohibit feeding the homeless. Reason’s Baylen Linnekin has been writing about this for months, and now reports that the prohibitions are under attack from the courts … and from outraged citizens:
I mention Elijah’s selflessness and generosity toward me and these two men for this startling reason: While Elijah’s act of sharing food with me would be legal virtually anywhere in this country, his decision to feed the homeless men who ate with us could be illegal in many cities today. The reason for this dramatic discrepancy boils down to this fact alone: I slept with a roof over my head, but the others slept under the stars.
Such illogic has led cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and Houston to ban residents from sharing food with the homeless and less fortunate. I called such laws “unconstitutional, discriminatory, and wrongheaded” in a column I wrote over the summer. They remain so.
But since I wrote that widely read column in June, I’ve noticed a welcome pattern emerging. These unjust laws are under attack.
Shortly after my column, in which I noted my support for a new ACLU of Pennsylvania lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia over that city’s ban, a federal judge forced Philadelphia officials to back down. …
In Chicago, for example, at least one politician, Ald. James Cappleman, recently tried to banish a Salvation Army food truck from feeding the homeless in his neighborhood. (At least his position, enraging as it may be, is consistent with the city’s larger stance against food trucks.) Soon, under pressure, Cappleman backed down.
In Seattle, city officials recently ordered the Bread of Life Mission, which had been feeding people in the city’s Pioneer Square for more than 70 years, to halt its efforts. Facing a backlash, city officials relented.
While Chicago and Seattle have scrapped such bans, other governments have been moving to protect the right of individuals and groups to share food with others.
Be sure to read it all (via Eve Tushnet).