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samagon

Feeding the Homeless

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Surprised this hasn't been posted yet, what with the lively 'discussions' that usually ensue regarding homeless/transients/panhandlers in Houston...

http://blog.chron.com/houstonpolitics/2012/03/houston-wants-to-regulate-feeding-the-homeless/

Regulating feeding of the homeless, Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s administration says, will prevent food from going to waste, protect the homeless from food poisoning and allergic reactions and curtail the trail of trash left behind where feeders meet the fed.

But the rules on the way to council tomorrow (see item 10) have been characterized by opponents as criminalizing charity because of the fines of up to $2,000 for violations of the new rules. At least one charity says it will pull up stakes and move all its operations to Montgomery County if the rules are passed. And Councilwoman Helena Brownhas sent out a message criticizing the rules as an infringement of religious expression and declaring “Cesar (sic) MUST NOT regulate Jesus Christ!”

“It seems like there’s a lot of waste and inefficiency,” said District I Councilman James Rodriguez, who supports the ordinance. He said he hears from residents in the downtown portion of his district about how the persistent litter, defecation and fights that require police intervention detract from the quality of life and make homes harder to sell.

The rules would:

  • Limit feeding of the homeless on public property to Tranquillity Park, Peggy’s Point Plaza Park and a park on Chartres Street just north of Minute Maid Park. Written authorization of the property owner would be required for feedings on private property.
  • Require feeding organizations to register with the city and to take a food safety training class.
  • Require that the food be served within four hours of preparation (or removal from temperature control).
  • Mandate that the feeding site be left “in a clean, waste-free, litter-free condition.”
  • Make violations a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $2,000.

more in the article.

I know everywhere that I've heard this discussed, they make it sound like the people making/distributing the food will have to follow the same restrictions as other food prep and meet all codes restaurants meet.

Personally, I don't see a problem with any of this, it just makes sense. The only part I don't agree with fully is the 'safety training class' if it's a nominal cost for the class, and a short class then I'm good with it, but if it's like a week long seminar that costs 10k to attend... it shouldn't be hard for these people to feed the homeless, and the more barriers that are there, the harder it will be, but if it's something easy for them to accomplish, I'm onboard.

I'm absolutely onboard with the rules about private property.

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Agreed food safety is important but kind of stiff regulations for serving people that regularly eat from dumpsters and trash cans.

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Agreed food safety is important but kind of stiff regulations for serving people that regularly eat from dumpsters and trash cans.

yeah, this is why I'm up in the air, because poorly prepared/served food is probably still safer than what they would normally get out of a dumpster, but what if the food that is given to them by a church gets them sick and they die as a result because they can't get the medical attention they need? or what if they do get medical attention, are we (the tax payers) on the hook for paying for them to get back to health because the church didn't take enough precaution to ensure food safety?

I think based on that, I'm more inclined to believe this is a good thing. especially if it's only $72 for the food safety class (even if it's a 2 day course).

hell, you would think churches would WANT this, so as to help mitigate liability?

Edit: I uses churches, but really it should be 'institutions' since it's not just churches that feed the homeless...

Edited by samagon

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I saw in a previous article that the class will be free. This isn't the worst set of regulations, but I'm reluctant to create any barrier to entry for homeless outreach.

Why can't the churches invite the homeless to their church and feed them their?

Some do (Palmer Memorial feeds people every weekday morning), but they're trying to help people where they live, and getting them out to whatever BFE church would be difficult.

Edited by kylejack

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Some do (Palmer Memorial feeds people every weekday morning), but they're trying to help people where they live, and getting them out to whatever BFE church would be difficult.

Well, I hate to be synical about it, but the people who come in from Katy to feed the homeless probably wouldn't want them around all the time.

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Well, I hate to be synical about it, but the people who come in from Katy to feed the homeless probably wouldn't want them around all the time.

They're around because downtown has the best access to public transit, and because it has pedestrian traffic, and because it's one of the places where they can sleep without getting chased away, not because some church feeds them.

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Yeah, I was meaning that if they did live out in Katy, the people who drive in from Katy to feed them now would be trying to figure out how to get them to go somewhere, not so close to home. Again, that's the cynic in me.

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Can't the homeless already get food at Star of hope and such?

Yes, and that's what gets lost in the debate. Midtown had several reps from various homeless orgs speak at a night meeting last year. They all said that feeding the homeless was not good for them and their orgs had the capabilities to feed who needs it (they get subsidies and have scale-ability that churches don't). They even said allowing them to do small jobs (like pull weeds in your garden for money) is also not good. They want them to learn how to provide for themselves and have programs in place to help those that truly need and want the help. They said if a homeless person tells you that they were turned away by one of these orgs... it usually means they were not serious about wanting help and were either taking advantage of other homeless or being hostile/drug problems/etc.

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Yes, and that's what gets lost in the debate. Midtown had several reps from various homeless orgs speak at a night meeting last year. They all said that feeding the homeless was not good for them and their orgs had the capabilities to feed who needs it (they get subsidies and have scale-ability that churches don't).

Can you be more specific? SEARCH, or who?

They even said allowing them to do small jobs (like pull weeds in your garden for money) is also not good.

Yes, but this is a separate matter. Giving money to homeless supports substance abuse whereas food helps them survive.

They want them to learn how to provide for themselves and have programs in place to help those that truly need and want the help. They said if a homeless person tells you that they were turned away by one of these orgs... it usually means they were not serious about wanting help and were either taking advantage of other homeless or being hostile/drug problems/etc.

That's a very odd thing for them to say, as virtually all homeless have a problem with substance abuse (it's something like 90%).

Edited by kylejack

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What they are saying is that they need our help to starve the homeless into coming to their organization and submitting to their rules. These orgs do great work, but they (perhaps of necessity) attempt to force the homeless into compliance. Sometimes, I just feel like throwing a few bucks to the homeless, and I really don't give a flip whether Star of Hope, the City, or anyone else approves.

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I can't remember everyone but SEARCH was there. They also had a formerly homeless guy who turned his life around that talked. Basically, they all said it requires tough love and firmness to get through to people (and it works). There is plenty of food already for survival (hence why the city talks about overfeeding and trying to better coordinate resources). The point is that the big orgs have the capabilities and track records of being able to take a dollar and do more with it to help those in need than an individual or small church group can. They also work together to target who needs help, unlike the churches that work independently and do not know what other groups are doing.

When I said drug problems, I meant dealing or trying to prey on the homeless who are trying to clean themselves up. The problem with the church feedings is that they don't vet who they help and the environment is open to anyone. Apparently there have been instances where criminals go and eat at these feedings and use them to learn what homeless people have a disability or soc sec check coming so they can rob them later. The big orgs try their hardest to only help those that truly want help and need it, and weed out the criminals and thugs that try to make a buck on the backs of those who are trying to get help.

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yeah, this is why I'm up in the air, because poorly prepared/served food is probably still safer than what they would normally get out of a dumpster, but what if the food that is given to them by a church gets them sick and they die as a result because they can't get the medical attention they need? or what if they do get medical attention, are we (the tax payers) on the hook for paying for them to get back to health because the church didn't take enough precaution to ensure food safety?

LOL do you really think the City is doing this because of food safety??? It's all about the possiblity of additional revenue due to fines. people have been complaining about homeless in downtown for years. city council passed the civility ordinance which basically banned the homeless from downtown (cant sit or lie for extended periods) and was subsequently expanded to other areas so that the citizens of houston will "feel" better. the reality is nothing has changed.

if the city wants to keep the homeless out of certain areas (or at least minimize presence), they will. That's what the city government promised the discovery green foundation during the park development. and last i saw, it is still pretty effective.

Edited by musicman

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LOL do you really think the City is doing this because of food safety??? It's all about the possiblity of additional revenue due to fines. people have been complaining about homeless in downtown for years. city council passed the civility ordinance which basically banned the homeless from downtown (cant sit or lie for extended periods) and was subsequently expanded to other areas so that the citizens of houston will "feel" better. the reality is nothing has changed.

if the city wants to keep the homeless out of certain areas (or at least minimize presence), they will. That's what the city government promised the discovery green foundation during the park development. and last i saw, it is still pretty effective.

I'm sure they're doing it because people are complaining, not necessarily as a revenue generation tool.

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I'm quite torn about this too. The city has a vested interest in creating this ordinance because they have to clean up after the people when they on public grounds. I get that. But somehow an ordinance to be able to feed the homeless doesn't seem like a good idea. I would rather they create an ordinance to encourage the churches/organizations to help clean the area after they're done, or pay a service fee to de-fray the costs. It shouldn't be illegal to feed the homeless.

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If the mayor's office is serious about cleaning up those pesky unwanted homeless folks then all they need to do is award Landry's the exclusive feeding contract. That should pretty much take care of it.

Edited by gazhomme

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I'm quite torn about this too. The city has a vested interest in creating this ordinance because they have to clean up after the people when they on public grounds. I get that. But somehow an ordinance to be able to feed the homeless doesn't seem like a good idea. I would rather they create an ordinance to encourage the churches/organizations to help clean the area after they're done, or pay a service fee to de-fray the costs. It shouldn't be illegal to feed the homeless.

Up until about a year and a half ago, the people feeding the homeless were feeding under the pierce elevated between Chenevert and Hamilton, then the city started doing some beautification to that block, up until about a year ago they started doing the feeding under 45 near bastrop, now they feed them on the private lot at the corner of chartres and st josephs pkwy.

I was under the impression (based on this) that the city was actively keeping them from doing any food distribution/preaching on city property.

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I was under the impression (based on this) that the city was actively keeping them from doing any food distribution/preaching on city property.

sounds like you have zero idea of what's going on.

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They should start feeding them in Katy. Set up a bus/shuttle to take them way out there.

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Agreed food safety is important but kind of stiff regulations for serving people that regularly eat from dumpsters and trash cans.

Why do you assume they eat out of dumpsters and trash cans?

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Why do you assume they eat out of dumpsters and trash cans?

Why do you assume they don't?

From where else will they dine? Houston's? Jonathan's Rub?

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It's a good day to donate to homeless orgs. Going to be very cold tonight.

The climate has little to do with how corrupt the orgs are. I'll bet that 3 cents out of every dollar actually goes towards helping the homeless.

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The climate has little to do with how corrupt the orgs are. I'll bet that 3 cents out of every dollar actually goes towards helping the homeless.

I've shown you the numbers before, but don't let that stop you from just making stuff up. 75% of income goes to program expenses for Star Of Hope. http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6340

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