A city in California has proposed plans to ban citizens from feeding homeless people in certain public places.
The new measure, if passed, will make the handing out of food in Lancaster, CA banned on public streets, sidewalks, parking lots and other city-owned property.
Lawmakers claim the extreme measure will cut down on trash and “public nuisance.” But critics claim it will endanger the lives of the already vulnerable homeless population.
Lancaster’s Mayor Rex Parris, a massive supporter of the ban, argued with homeless advocates in a tense meeting on Tuesday night.
Foxnews.com reports: “A lot of people would come to eat, the people feeding them would leave and the mess would be left behind,” Parris said. “We’re talking about people defecating in the entryways of the business. It became a public health problem.”
Homeless advocates claim the proposed fees and fines would dramatically scale back on volunteers who have helped feed the homeless in the past.
“Don’t penalize my people for going to feed people because we don’t follow your organization or rules,” one advocate said. His comments were met with applause in the meeting.
Another homeless advocate told the mayor and other city leaders that the ban is “not only punitive against the hungry but it’s even punitive against the people trying to help the homeless.”
Michael Ouimet, a Navy veteran who has been homeless for 11 years, told ABC7 that meals are already difficult to find if you’re living on the streets and that the proposed measure could make it impossible.
“You never really know where you’re going to get your next meal from,” he said.
Following the hearing, city officials set up a committee to work with nonprofits to study the issue. It is unclear how long the “study” would last or how much it would cost.
A quarter of the nation’s homeless people live in California. The crisis has hit hard in large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, but smaller cities and towns across the state are also seeing an uptick in their homeless population.
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