Friday, August 12, 2011

Tampa tells group to stop feeding homeless downtown

For the past six years, a loosely organized group of church volunteers has been feeding homeless people on Saturday mornings from a city-owned parking lot downtown. In recent years, the numbers of mouths to feed has grown, to more than 150 men and women, but they've never had issues and the city has always looked the other way.

Until now.

Last weekend, Tampa police shut down the meal, politely telling them that the activity is illegal and they need a permit to serve food on public property.

"They're trying to sweep these people under the rug," said Doris Lutkus, who has been volunteering for the past four years. "It's unconscionable."

Lutkus said she began calling city departments this week, trying to figure out what the regulations are and how they can get a permit. She said she got the "proverbial runaround."

"They passed me around like an old shoe, from one office to the next," she said. "No one could tell me what law we were breaking, just that we were not allowed to be there."

Santiago Corrada, Mayor Bob Buckhorn's chief of staff, said there is a whole host of state and local regulations for activities where food is served to large groups on city-owned property.

"If they've been doing this for years without permits, somewhere along the line we might have dropped the ball," he said. "There are all kinds or requirements on public feeding."

Read the Tampa Tribune report here.


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