Houston food sharing ordinance takes effect

Law has many upset

Author: Courtney Zavala, Anchor/Reporter, czavala@kprc.com
Published On: Jul 01 2012 05:55:32 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 01 2012 06:09:21 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

A new ordinance that puts guidelines on feeding Houston's homeless goes into effect Sunday, but not everyone is happy about it.

Starting July 1, it is now illegal to feed five or more homeless people. Houston has the largest homeless population in the state of Texas with an estimate close to 10,000 people.

"The poor and homeless sometimes aren't pretty but they are citizens of the United States of America. And they are human beings. They have rights. And they deserve to be treated with dignity," said Civil Rights Attorney Randall Kallinen.

There's a $500 fine for anyone feeding five or more homeless people within the city of Houston.

City Council members voted 11-6 to pass the ordinance requiring anyone who wants to feed five or more homeless people get written permission from the property owner. That includes public land like city parks. The ordinance gives the city parks director to decide which ones will be legal feeding venues.

Judy Hoffin, a retired school teacher and volunteer with her church which feeds the homeless, is one of seven people who served the city with legal notice about the ordinance, saying it violates her freedom of religion.

"I feel called upon to serve them. It's where I'm meant to be. It's where I feel comfortable. I'm very upset the city is trying to take that right from me," said Hoffine.

The city has 60 days to respond to the notice. According to the City of Houston, the ordinance is in place to allow for better coordination of food service operations and to have a record of the responsible party in the event a mess is left behind.