This just in: You’re not allowed to feed the homeless.
As if we needed one more ridiculous rule to worry about, there are now 21 cities in the United States in which it is illegal to feed the homeless.
This is awful for me, because I’m from the South and we feed people. That’s what we do. Broken arm? A pie will make it better. Broken soul? Here’s some mashed taties and green beans with ham – all is right with the world. Cornbread soaked with sweet buttermilk doesn’t cure a cold, but it sure makes it more bearable.
Very rarely do we give money to people asking for “help” in the truck stops and on the interstate exits. I make a bag – food, something to drink, a couple of one dollar bills, some baby wipes – enough to get them through to the next day, at least. If they’ve got a dog they always get beef jerky, a package of tuna and an extra bottle of water.
In Fort Lauderdale, “feeding sites” (are you kidding me?) are to be more than 500 feet away from each other, with only one allowed per city block. They’ll also have to be at least 500 feet from residential properties. Translated, that means if the truck in front of you hands the dude a sammich, you have to wait until he’s at least a block down the road before you throw him a bag of Funyons. Be advised, no feeding is allowed at all if someone has their house trailer backed up to the highway fence. This is a no-no.
Cities across America have recently enacted restrictions or attempted to make feeding the homeless a difficult, paper-intensive process. Chico, Calif. Olympia, Wash. Atlanta. Birmingham, Ala. All are listed in the National Coalition for the Homeless Report as cities attempting to make food-sharing an arduous process, if not completely illegal.
Homelessness and hunger are not new problems in human society. Jesus fed the masses, and I’m pretty sure he was within 500 feet of at least one hovel, so you go, rebel Jesus. He also said, “Hey y’all, I’m getting ready to help you out so you can go help yourselves, and in turn, help each other.” (This may be ad-lib – my Sunday school teacher was from Beaufort, S.C., and I have forever since considered Jesus to be perfectly capable of saying “y’all.”)
There are a lot of people out there who take advantage. We’ve been burnt more than once – I’ve seen the bag of food tossed and the two bucks pocketed with a distasteful look. We’ve also seen the food eaten before they even realized there was two bucks in the bag – and those are the people we don’t mind helping. There’s no reason for anyone to be hungry in a country with so much abundance. This abundance breeds a class of sub-humans who panhandle by day and drive around in a Mercedes at night – the ones who make it even harder for those who are truly in need.
I don’t think handing someone a sandwich should be against the law, and I’m probably not going to stop doing it. There will always be jerks and grifters, but every once in a while, I truly believe a person is just one sandwich and a couple of bucks away from turning their lives around. Basic human kindness is always an appropriate response, regardless of the law of man.