Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Making it a crime to share food
with hungry poor and homeless people

The city of Orlando has moved a step closer to ending the meals for the homeless provided by the group Food Not Bombs at Lake Eola Park.

Monday night, the city commission voted 5-2 in favor of an ordinance that would require a permit for large group meals and limit them to just twice a year. A final vote is expected on July 10.

The driving force behind the proposed ordinance seems to be horror stories of increasing crime. But I haven’t seen it, and I live about four blocks from the park. The other night, a friend and I walked around the lake and saw one guy who looked like he might be homeless. (Oh, yes,
I recognize the stereo-typing in that sentence, but perceptions of the homeless is a discussion for another day.)

And I have some questions about the ordinance, too. It would require a permit for distributing food to more than 15 people. So will the police be arresting kindergarten teachers who hand out cookies and juice at the playground? Will they count the people at family picnics?

Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the operative theme here.

Read Food Not Bombs' comments on the proposed ordinance here.

Read the Orlando Sentinel story here. And see previous post here.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas ... A city ordinance which limits handing out food in city parks is being challenged in federal court. The lawsuit was brought by a retired woman who was given a citation by city marshals because she gathered more than 25 homeless people together to hand out food. Lee Rowland, ACLU public advocate, said, "This isn't just about one person bringing a meal into the park, this is a political choice by the city to ostracize and persecute those people who are providing services that the city has failed to provide." Read more here.


At 10:10 PM, Blogger Anonymous Law Student said...

What does the city think this will accomplish? If they want to solve this problem they would increase the services being offered to the homeless...perhaps even look into what it would take to get some of the homeless people off the streets and into some kind of housing.

At 2:02 AM, Blogger G. Brandon Hoyt said...

I've been giving food to the homeless in Orlando for a while, and we haven't been able to use lake Eola since 2002 or so. Also, my people on OPD gave me a heads up more than a year ago that they were being asked to enforce "stupid laws" (ie, spitting in public, laying down in public, etc) and that feeding in Heritage park shouldn't be done because they were being harassed by people all the time. I don't think that the where is as important as the fact that feeding does happen, and I'm not stopping any time soon!


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