More American cities are blocking individuals and ministries from feeding homeless people in parks and public squares, and several Americans have been ticketed for offering such charity, according to a forthcoming report by the National Coalition for the Homeless.
To date, 33 cities have adopted or are considering such food–sharing restrictions, according to the coalition, which shared with NBC News a draft of its soon-to-be published study.
Police in at least four municipalities – Raleigh, N.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Daytona Beach, Fla. – have recently fined, removed or threatened to jail private groups that offered meals to the homeless instead of letting government-run service agencies care for those in need, the advocacy group reports.
“Homeless people are visible in downtown America. And cities think by cutting off the food source it will make the homeless go away. It doesn’t, of course,” said Michael Stoops, director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, based in Washington, D.C.
“We want to get cities to quit doing this,” Stoops said. “We support the right of all people to share food.”
NBC News has chronicled the legal battle waged by a Florida couple, Debbie and Chico Jimenez, who had cooked and served hot meals to homeless people each Wednesday for the past year at a Daytona Beach park. The couple and four friends were cited by police and collectively fined by more than $2,000 for violating a local ordinance that prohibits such public feedings. The ticketed six refused to pay. On Wednesday, Daytona Beach police opted to dismiss the fines.
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