Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A lesson in fighting City Hall

Saequoia Sutton, 9, joins classmates handing out food to homeless men and women in Philadelphia. The Thursday night effort has come under fire from City Hall; city officials say it is not the best way to aid the homeless.

For nearly two years, students from a charter school have handed out food and supplies to the homeless once a week on a downtown sidewalk.

But last Thursday police showed up and ordered the group to disperse, prompting 13-year-old Karima Mims-DeWitt to fearfully ask: "Are we going to go to jail for giving food to the homeless?"

No arrests occurred, but the controversy -- part of a larger, long-standing point of contention in Philadelphia and other cities (yes, including Orlando) -- continues: How best to help the city's homeless? Is it better to hand out food to them on the street, which opponents of the practice say may encourage them to stay on the street, or is it better to feed them in shelters and other places where they can be directed toward mental-health help and other services they desperately need?

"It does no good to feed someone on the Parkway and then leave them there with no place to go," said Dainette Mintz, the city's deputy managing director of special-needs housing.

Veronica Joyner, CEO of the Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School, said the city can bring the services to her feeding location. "We have given them a captive group," she said. "For two years, we've been there. I refuse to move it and lose them."

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer article here.


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