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Feeding the homeless

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this.

Mayor Annise Parker is asking the council to adopt rules that would require organizations and people who feed the homeless to register with the city, take a food safety class, prepare the food in certified kitchens, serve only at three public parks, and leave those parks as clean as when they entered them.

Parker described her vision as one in which charities can coordinate their efforts through the city registry to reduce redundancy and waste.

“We’re trying to do this in a way that we don’t waste food so that churches, for example, don’t show up on top of each other trying to feed the same group of 20 guys,” Parker said during two hours of public testimony Tuesday.

Civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen called the proposed rules an “assault on freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.” The ordinance’s penalties of $50 to $2,000 could make it a crime to feed the homeless, Kallinen said.

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Councilman James Rod­riguez, who represents downtown, said the rule changes would make charity more efficient and coordinated. He said downtown residents complain of persistent litter, defecation and fights that require police intervention and detract from the quality of life and make homes harder to sell.

The proposal was tagged on Wednesday, and with Council out next week it won’t come up again till the 22nd, which will hopefully allow more time for discussion of all the concerns.

The proposed ordinance does not provide a public site for serving meals to the homeless outside of downtown Houston. Although the city’s parks director would be authorized to designate more sites in the future, the proposed rules would limit feeding on public property to Tranquillity Park, Peggy’s Point Plaza Park and undeveloped park land on Chartres, north of Minute Maid Park.

“For the city to designate it to just those three parks makes it hard,” Edward Sweet Sr., bishop of Strait & Narrow Way Temple Full Gospel Church in southwest Houston, said earlier this week. “How will these homeless people get to these three parks without transportation?”

The city is willing to add more parks, said Janice Evans, a spokeswoman for Mayor Annise Parker, but first wants to see how the new rules work in the three designated parks and to gauge whether there is a desire from groups to serve meals at other locations.

The Coalition for the Homeless, which supports the proposed regulations that would institute food handling standards, require trash pickup and have organizations register with the city, expects to produce a map in coming weeks that will show that many of Houston’s estimated 13,000 homeless residents live outside of downtown.

No doubt there are plenty of homeless folks outside of downtown, and that’s a big issue. I’m fine with the cleanup requirements, and the food safety requirements are reasonable as long as they’re not too onerous, but it’s not really clear to me what problem is being solved here. This sounds like the right way to go about it:

Council members Oliver Pennington and Jack Christie said they would like to hold off on mandatory rules until after a campaign that promotes voluntary compliance with some of the proposed rules, such as clean-up of the sites where food is served.

I agree. Let’s try to deal with that in a non-intrusive way, then we can see if there’s anything left that actually requires an ordinance. Campos and Stace have more.

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5 Comments

  1. joshua bullard says:

    you dont get off that easy charles kuffner-its your people doing this charles,over regulating and coming up with ways to expand and increase goverment,your going way to easy on the mayor and james rodriquezzzz,i mean my god man,what in the world is houston coming to when james rodriquez continues his attack on houstons homeless people,now hes got the mayor convinced and joinder on the assault,

    these two are blind to the fact that there giving it to us canadian style,

    i am looking for no votes from the following council members ellen cohen-helena brown-co brad bradford-andrew c burks jr-jack christie-mike sullivan- the rest would have to have a burning bush experience to do the right thing…

    mayor parker-get james rodriquezzz homeless assault off the agenda..

    gloves off in 2012

    joshua ben bullard

  2. joshua bullard says:

    i was homeless in houston from 1992 threw 1998-i would have never survived had it not been for the many churches and groups that help me along-i remember there was this police officer that would make 100 hamburgers at his house and deliver them where the minute maid park now is-or the many food lines that where out there on saturdays-

    can you imagine the long line the homeless will have to stand in just to get food?i cant.

    charles-what has happended to the annise parker we used to know???????????????

    this is in humane and you know it-

  3. Jj says:

    Right. The Democrat knee-jerk reaction to regulate is often wrong when you know or care about the topic of regulation. Ask the 6+ liberal Democrat engineers who work on offshore oil rig issues (like designin them), and were serving on the post-BP accident commission, whether Pres Obama’s actions in the Gulf were based on fact, an understanding of the risks, or just pure political philosophy and strategy.

    You should examine another of Annise’s “government regulation or order is always the first thing that needs to be done” decisions: water rationing this summer. Sure, some areas need to do it during drought. But not Houston. We have a reservoir called Lake Conroe 2x our main one, then Lake Livingston another 4x. There was a drought, but there was no water shortage. We were nowhere near running out last summer. Ask yourself, as the reservoirs are at 100% and runover pours out into the Gulf, what purpose did rationing serve? Have we saved up water for summer 2012? No, that’s not how a river-fed water supply works. So what did Annise accomplish? Killing 2 million trees, that’s what. Environmentalists should be furious with her. And some are. Slowly but surely the Democrats I talk with, who see her in action in areas they know something about, are whispering “what’s up with her? I am starting to think she’s just plain dumb.”

  4. Jj says:

    Joshua was typing away at the same time I was. And he proves my point. He knows about the homeless feeding issue and sees that Parker is wrong.

    (by the way, as many people who tried to steer her away from this issue know, this is the 100th example of “I dont care what you think, I do what I want and the 5 yes-wo/men around me have validated me, so I will go down in flames once again”). Too bad Sue Lovell is no longer there to save her ass (after also not being listened to). So James Rodriguez is trying to. I know James Rodriguez, and he’s no Sue Lovell!!!

  5. [...] here for some background, and here for the Mayor’s statement. I think we can all agree that [...]

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