Activists feeding the homeless in parks arrested - Do the police have a valid point?

At what point does doing this make the parks uninhabitable as recreational areas for the tax paying citizens? It initially sounds like the mean 'ol cops won’t let the well meaning student activists feed the hungry homeless just because they just like being oppressive, but in reading he story further I think the police have a valid point, and bent over backward to try and solve the problem before arresting the activists.

Handcuffs for two USF students - Students arrested for distributing food to homeless without permit

Yeah, I always thought that Mother Teresa was bad sort too.
Now excuse me, I’m off to steal Easter.

Once again, I am reminded of why Florida has its own little banner over at

I suspect it’s basically just to keep the homeless from congregating at any particular public place… but it’s still a hell of a thing.

There is a beautiful park in the circle in front of my home. Its benches often serve as makeshift beds for a half dozen homelss from time to time. At night I’m hardly aware of them. In the day they look like, well… people sitting in the park. I would not have a problem with kind-hearted folks feeding them, if the leftover trash didn’t litter the park and make it look like the Islip Garbage Barge.

So I understand it when property owners don’t want to see their neighborhoods turned into trash cans, but chasing the good samaritans away does not address the root of the problem. Maybe the city needs better homless shelters or soup kitchens.

What is not needed, is a city ordinance preventing people from providing food to others who are in need, based on the time and place of the charitable offense.

Hey, I like Food Not Bombs. I bake bread for them sometimes.

I can totally understand how it’s not a good idea to have homeless people sleeping and bathing in public parks (though I also sympathize with the homeless who don’t have a better place to sleep or bathe), but what is the serious problem with handing out some food to a few dozen people for one two- or three-hour period once a week? There are plenty of non-homeless people who eat lunches and have picnics in the parks—it happens every day.

And what’s this business about distributing food once a week turning the parks into “campsites for the homeless”? Makes the homeless sound like Canada geese who move into a place just because they got fed there once. Surely most homeless people are capable of understanding that the food distribution only happens for a brief period on Sundays and there’s no particular point in hanging around the park at other times. (Of course, the problem is that for the homeless there’s no particular point in hanging around anywhere else either, really.)

Preventing other human beings from starving to death? Outrageous, we simply can’t have that! To jail with you, you stinking hippies! :confused:

So would you agree that the students actions, while a nice gesture, do nothing to actually solve the problem? That their time and effort would be better spent in working to set up better homeless shelters or soup kitchens?

Don’t you see? If you feed them they’ll expect to get fed! Why, I bet they’d be coming in by the busload and ruin the park for real people.

Since public officials have every right to ban whatever behavior they see fit in the public park, I don’t see how the police’s point is invalid. Heck, they could decide that only people who could prove they had a place to live could enter the park thus getting rid of that pesky homeless problem altogether. I bet you’d see some support for that.
That’s because some people are self-centered and self-serving.

Although you intended your point to be archly sarcastic, the exact situation you posit of homeless people congregating in numbers, and making the city recreational areas essentially uninhabitable by non-homeless, is what San Francisco is struggling with right now (and has been for some time) , in terms of their liberal benefit/assistance policies and historically compassionate attitudes towards homeless people (and temperate climate) attracting large numbers of homeless.

If you feed homeless people in a certain area they will tend to congregate there. Hell, if you fed me free of charge I might do the same. The issue is not so much the feeding in and of itself, it’s the congregating, and the general nastiness that can accompany this if sufficient numbers of the homeless are making this their preferred locale for open air living.

While compassion is a good thing there are practical quality of life and sanitary issues that have to be handled if you are going to encourage people to congregate in a specific area. Handing out bread and feeling good about yourself is a wonderful thing if you don’t have to deal with the consequences.

And not feeding the homeless once a week will make them disappear, astro?
It’s a public park. People congregate there. That’s what they are for. The self-serving and self-centered can always make the case that feeding the homeless is not good for them-- that’s what makes them self-centered and serving.

Wow! A perfect tautology!

The issue at hand is less self-centeredness (and in any case one might argue the food providers are being “self centered” by refusing the acknowledge the pratical quality of life consequences for others of their good deeds) and more about dealing with the environmental consequences of encouraging large number of homeless people to make their homes in a specific area. If you have any doubts about the problems this can create look at the problems in San Franciso.

They were charged with distributing food without a permit. Sounds like their kitchens haven’t been inspected & verified to be clean, and that they haven’t had a review of their food handling practices. Would there be no outrage if the recipients of the food all came down with salmonella poisoning or HepA or any of a long list of food-bourne pathogens because the “stinking hippies” weren’t too careful with food they were feeding to a bunch of homeless folks?

I strive for perfection.
The issue at hand is ticketing people who feed the homeless, isn’t it?

I don’t need to look to San Fran to see the homeless problem. I live in New York. If the homeless (or anyone, for that matter) are littering or bathing in the park or doing anything that is having specific “environmental consequences”, then I have no problem with ticketing them.

The problem I have is with the underlying context of who gets to be in the park. Those who have a place to live have some sort of presumptuous right to the park over those who don’t.

It’s not an issue of who gets to be in the park. The issue is who gets to be in the park for what purpose. The cops were perfectly correct in ticketing the activists, just like cops are perfectly right for ticketing people who dragrace on city streets. Same principle.

Yes I would agree, IF the students have the time and can expend the effort to do this. However it’s probable that all the students can scrounge up is a few sandwiches for the homeless, in which case they are only doing what they can.

Just because I’m not a doctor, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t apply a bandage.

I don’t know how it works in NYC or SF, but 'round here, parks are paid for through property taxes. So yes, I think that those who are paying for the parks have a presumptive right to use them over those who aren’t.

Is there a reason that Food Not Bombs didn’t apply for the permit?


OK… here’s the deal. I’m as much a hippie as any other person. I’m very emptathetic for the plight of the homeless, and I frequently do volunteer work.

However, the police have a point. Their main worry, it seems, is the distribution of food without a permit, which is justified. They are correct in stating that there are facilities which have the purpose of distributing food and shelter for the homeless, and that doing it in the park (or elsewhere) is against the ordinance, which was enacted for health reasons. You can’t have just anyone set up shop and distribute food to people.

The Food Not Bombs group should be concentrating its efforts on helping the shelters and other legal means of supporting the homeless.

As for the homeless congregating in the park… look, here’s my thing. Look at a city like Berkeley. On almost every single count, Berkeley violates conservative sense. But, by some magical reason, Berkeley continues to not only exist, but thrive. People’s Park is well known for being a spot where the homeless “live,” but it is still used by everyone as much as any other park. It hasn’t been the end of the world. I simply don’t see what the big deal is.

If they have time to hang out at the park distributing stir fry in a manner which violates the law, I suspect they have the time and resources to help out in a manner which does not.


Do you understand the difference between private and public property? Paying taxes doesn’t buy you special rights. And why do you assume homeless people don’t pay taxes?