Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In Houston: Feed The Homeless, Possibly Get Fined

As if government regulations aren’t onerous enough, the Mayor of Houston, TX wants to regulate how, when, where and what local charities feed the homeless. Taken directly from the article, here is what Mayor Annise Parker proposes local charities must do in order to feed the homeless:

“…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.”

I will admit to not being well-versed with this situation—this is the first I’ve heard of it. On the surface, those regulations don’t seem too ridiculous. However, I suspect this is an attempt to relocate homeless people into well-defined areas. By limiting the access to three public parks, it effectively limits charities from going to where the homeless are. The homeless would have to travel to—and would likely relocate near—one of the three parks.

I have several issues with this. First off, the government is trying to regulate food consumption—which I believe is never a good thing. Secondly, the proposal effectively criminalizes charitable acts—offending charities can be fined up to $2000.

But my biggest issue is this. As is noted in the article, several smaller charitable organizations would have a hard time complying with the ordinance. In order to feed the homeless, they would be compelled to break the law. THIS IS CHARITY! It’s people giving of their time and talent to make sure people in need CAN EAT! While the Mayor says that the regulations would make it easier to feed the homeless, my experience with government is that any time they get involved, it makes it harder and more expensive to do what you feel called to do.