The National Coalition for the Homeless, an organization that seeks to eradicate hunger and poverty, has released a new report highlighting its belief that a number of "myths" have led countless cities and towns across America to wrongly limit food distribution and support for the homeless.
In the new report, titled "Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People In Need," the group contends that 21 cities have restricted food sharing programs since January 2013, with at least 10 other localities exploring similar restrictions.
National Coalition for the Homeless
Of the numerous ordinances put into place, the coalition said that there are generally three types of restrictions: requiring groups to have a permit to hand out food in public spaces, forcing individuals to comply with food-safety regulations, and moving the distribution of food away from certain areas based on residents' and business owners' complaints.
Regardless of how the restrictions formulate, the National Coalition for the Homeless is calling them both concerning and detrimental.
"There are many myths and motivations that are frequently circulated regarding the issues of homeless- ness and food-sharing," the report reads. "These myths have lead to some commonly accepted rationales for passing laws that restrict or prohibit food-sharing."
Among these so-called myths that the National Coalition for the Homeless aims to correct is the notion that food-sharing programs enables homelessness. According to the organization, food from caring individuals and organizations is, many times, the only healthy resource available to the homeless.
Noting that homelessness abounds for a variety of reasons, including a lack of affordable housing, mental or physical issues or a dearth in opportunity, the report proclaims that "food-sharing does not perpetuate homelessness."
Another myth that the organization seeks to debunk is the notion that the homeless will simply go away if organizations and individuals stop feeding people in need, something that the National Coalition for the Homeless said is inaccurate.
A map that shows restrictions and proposed restrictions in cities across America (National Coalition for the Homeless)
In order to alleviate poverty and homelessness, the group said it is necessary to discover and address the root causes.
The report, which offers up analysis of the legislation and ordinances implemented in local communities, concludes by noting that limiting food distribution "will likely leave many hungry and with few alternatives for finding adequate nutrition."
The document was released just one day before officials in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, approved their own set of food distribution restrictions on Wednesday.
The restrictions, which were adopted after an all night meeting, came with intense controversy. Protesters were on hand to chant and rail against the decision, according to the Sun Sentinel.
"Blood, blood, blood on your hands. Shame, shame, shame on [Mayor Jack] Seiler," they chanted. "Hey, Jack, what do you say? How many homeless did you starve today?"
The new restrictions require organizations distributing food outdoors to provide porta-potties for both their workers and the homeless. Additionally, feeding sites cannot be within 500 feet from one another.
Read the National Coalition for the Homeless report in its entirety here.
(H/T: Huffington Post)