Thursday, August 16, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #69 - Part 1

Good news: You can feed the poor in Philadelphia parks

I talked about this before; eight weeks ago, in fact, back in June. I was reporting the good news that Rhode Island had just passed the nation's first "Homeless Bill of Rights." As part of that, I mentioned how
this simple and humane legislation actually flies in the face of a trend in US cities to criminalize homelessness and things associated with homelessness
- such as panhandling, sleeping outdoors, or being fed in a public place.

Toward that end, more than 50 cities across the country have adopted anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws. Bluntly, these cities are not trying to address homelessness and the problems of the homeless, they are trying to make them invisible so that the tourists and the rich corporate executives wouldn't be disturbed by the sight of such icky things as homeless people.

As one example of these laws, I noted how in Philadelphia, an ordinance took effect on June 1 under which even recognized charities cannot even feed homeless people in public places such as parks.

Well, there is some good news on that particular front. On Monday, August 13, Federal District Court Judge William Yohn issued a ruling blocking the Philadelphia law.

In Yohn's words, "It hardly needs to be said that plaintiffs' food-sharing programs benefit the public interest. Despite [the city's] considerable efforts, many Philadelphians remain homeless and hungry."

In a hilarious attempt to defend the law, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter - yes, that's his real name - has said the intention was to get homeless people indoors, so they could get other forms of help. Exactly how feeding people in a park prevents those same people from later going inside somewhere was not explained.

Not surprisingly, the appropriately-named Nutter administration has appealed the ruling.

Footnote: One of four charities that sued the city of Philadelphia over the ban is a religious charity called Chosen 300. The group continued feeding the homeless when the ban was in limbo and said it never had any intention of obeying the law. Reverend Brian Jenkins, head of Chosen 300 Ministries, said back in July that
We're going to break the law, in the city's view we're breaking the law. In our view, it's the command of Christ.
Nice to know some Christians actually understand what it is to be one.


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