More Than 30 U.S. Cities Restricting Food Programs for Homeless People

By Ellis, Lindsay | The Christian Century, November 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

More Than 30 U.S. Cities Restricting Food Programs for Homeless People


Ellis, Lindsay, The Christian Century


A 90-year-old man and two clergy received citations on November 2 after Fort Lauderdale, Florida, became the latest city to place restrictions on feeding the homeless.

Arnold Abbott, who founded Love Thy Neighbor in 1991, has been providing food to homeless people at a local beach for more than 20 years. "After I was cited, I took everybody over to a church parking lot. We did feed everybody. It wasn't a complete waste."

Abbott, who has been ordered to appear in court, faces a maximum of 60 days in jail.

The new regulations state that operations for feeding the homeless outside must be at least 500 feet apart, allowing for only one such station per city block. Feeding operations must also be 500 feet away from residential properties, the Sun Sentinel reported.

Although churches may host indoor feeding programs, all organizations serving food outside need property owners' permission, the Sun Sentinel reported.

These stipulations, passed in late October, will limit options for the homeless, said Ray Sternberg, who works with homeless people at Fort Lauderdale's First Baptist Church. But he noted that churches can and will pick up the slack.

"It's going to cause confusion and hardship on the homeless," he said. "I think, though, that the ministries that are [feeding the homeless] on a consistent basis will find a way to help."

Sternberg joined the congregation in 1994 and recalls a Thanksgiving dinner held annually on a blocked-off area on the boulevard where the church is located. Carloads of volunteers would serve hundreds of homeless people each year, he said.

"You have so many homeless here in Fort Lauderdale, and the need is great," he said.

More than 30 U.S. cities have restricted or are in the process of restricting the sharing of food with the homeless, according to a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

The report, called "Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People in Need," aims to dispel what the authors call a widespread myth--that food sharing perpetuates homelessness.

"In many cases food sharing programs might be the only occasion in which some homeless individuals have access to healthy, safe food," the report reads.

Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Phoenix are among the U. …

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