Philadelphia’s new law banning “all outdoor feedings of large numbers of people on City parkland” goes into effect Friday, according CBS Philly, and some charitable groups have elected to ignore it.
“I encourage every church, every organization, every individual that has been serving on the Parkway to continue serving on the Parkway, despite this law that is going into effect,” said Altressa Boatwright, operations manager for Chosen 300, a charitable organization which has proudly served Philadelphia’s homeless community for years with “outdoor feedings.”
But why would the city pass a ban on charitable giving?
According to proponents of the bill, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, the new law will “protect the dignity of the homeless, cleanliness of the parks, and eliminate food health concerns.” However, dozens of opponents of the law testified at a hearing on Thursday and said the reasoning behind the ban was bunko.
“These regulations are clearly designated not with the intent of protecting the health and dignity of the homeless, but are designed to tuck the homeless in a corner and pretend that the problem does not exist in our city,” Reverend Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries said.
The group has established a fund to help anyone fined for breaking the “outdoor feeding” ban, philly.com reports.
“The people are the number one resources of this city, not the Barnes Museum,” said Philadelphia homeless advocate Erike Younge. “Feeding people and serving the needs of the people is a fundamental right. And to ban it or to oppose it and not to work to solve this problem is unconstitutional and inhumane.”
Meanwhile, a group of students from The Mathematics Civics and Sciences Charter School said at the hearing that they raise about $500 to $1000 each week for food and toiletries for the homeless near Ben Franklin Parkway.
“The food we distribute is prepared in our school cafeteria in the same manner and under the same conditions as the food that is served to the students,” said Gregory Dooley.
“It is clear to me that the reason that the Mayor has implemented this new directive is that he does not like the way large groups of homeless people and the public looks to visitors and more affluent residents.”
According to CBS Philly, the ban applies to the Fairmount Park system, “which includes Love Park and the Ben Franklin Parkway.”
No one from the Nutter administration attended Thursday’s hearing.
David Shivel, who volunteers handing out doughnuts and coffee, says “he is willing to go to jail for feeding the homeless,” adding that city officials need to understand they alone cannot help the city’s homeless, philly.com reports.
“You need us,” Shivel said. “You may not know that, but you need us.”
Front page photo source: Emma Lee/for NewsWorks