Newark’s Scrooges Want To Ban Giving Food to Homeless People

Every Christmas, it seems that as much as we are encouraged to give to the poor, local governments threaten to penalize those who don’t.

It’s Newark in New Jersey this year. The New York TimesAccording to reports, city officials plan to prohibit charitable organizations like churches from providing food for the homeless.

The following is an extract from the Times,Just before Thanksgiving, city officials announced that they were banning all groups from providing food for homeless persons in public areas. However, after the TimesWhen I reached out to the city, and began asking questions, the spokesperson for Mayor Rasbaraka said that organizations will need permits. Anybody caught feeding homeless people with no permit will face a ticket and a fine.

The proposal is both heartless and arguably illegal. The First Amendment allows for the exclusion of cities from imposing bans on serving homeless people. A panel of U.S. Court of Appeals judges ruled in August that Fort Lauderdale (Florida) violated Food Not Bombs’ First Amendment rights when it passed a similar ordinance requiring nonprofits to apply for permits prior to feeding the homeless.

While it may feel odd to consider the idea that giving somebody food is a form of speech or expression, the court took note that Food Not Bombs was an organization using its philanthropy to spread a particular message—that social welfare should have higher priority and food access should be treated as a human right. To understand their position, one does not need to agree. Individuals and churches have challenged the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as their food donations form part of their religious mission.

Newark officials performed the well-known song and dance in an attempt to justify using force to prevent people from giving food away to others. However, such actions were neither harmful nor illegal. The officials insisted that they were concerned about the safety of food and preferred people go to soup kitchens or shelters rather than relying on public parks for their meals. Sakinah Holte is the “homelessness coordinator” and the mayor opened this year a new housing center to house the homeless. “Feeding people at parks does not encourage anyone to move into housing. This keeps people sleeping on the streets and living on sidewalks,” Hoyte said to The Associated Press. Times.

This claim is not supported by any evidence, so the TimesJosiah Haken is the City Relief program officer, who provides meals for the homeless. Haken mentions that providing food for homeless people is the first step in building trust and eventually getting them housing. Hoyte believes she can make the homeless go to appropriate places to ask for help.

The TimesAlso, it is noted that nearby members of an improvement group have been advocating for outdoor restrictions to feed homeless people. However, using government power for the purpose of punishing charitable work won’t solve the problems associated with homelessness in this city.

Reason TV covered the 2012 Philadelphia ordinance.