Cities are cracking down on charities that feed the homeless, adopting rules that restrict food giveaways to certain locations, require charities to get permits or limit the number of free meals they can provide. USA Today reports that Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas and Wilmington, N.C., began enforcing such laws last year. Some are being challenged. A federal judge has blocked the Las Vegas law banning food giveaways to the poor in city parks. In Dallas, two ministries are suing, arguing that the law violates religious freedom.
“Going after the volunteers is new,” says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “They think that by not feeding people, it will make the homeless people leave.” City officials say the rules were prompted by complaints about crime and food safety. Some say they want control over locations so homeless people can also get services such as addiction counseling and job training. A Wilmington official said, “A lot of the merchants said, ‘We feel uncomfortable when you have all these homeless being fed downtown when we’re trying to attract tourists.’ ”