Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat (update)

March 4, 2012
By

Houston Food Not Bombs has been sharing healthy vegetarian food with hundreds of hungry people, several nights a week, for over 18 years and is a 2011 Recipient of a Peacemaker Award from the Houston Peace and Justice Center.

Well funded Houston homeless service organizations, developers, and city officials are promoting new regulations for dozens of groups like ours that provide food for the homeless in Houston every week.  Read the new amendment on pages 33 – 45 here: http://www.houstontx.gov/citysec/backup/2012/030612.pdf

Wednesday March 7, at the 9am session, Houston City Council will consider amending chapter 20 of the code of ordinances, imposing five new regulatory and licensing requirements for those who feed hungry people in Houston.  These regulations would bring the work of non-professionals who do homeless service work under city and police purview.  This law fits squarely in the context of criminalization of sharing of food across the country.  Food Not Bombs participants in U.S. Cities have ended up in jail when restrictive new laws came into effect.

We need your help!  Here are some talking points.  The amendments would:

- impose additional surveillance and enforcement requirements on the police

- require government permission to share food, criminalize citizens who do not have such permission (or had such permission taken away), and create a new complicated set of hearings, appeals, and consequences for those who lose such permission (punitive measures would include “cross-examination,” $2,000 a day fines, and criminal charges)

- require an entirely different set of standards for those sharing food with the homeless compared to those sharing food at picnics or tailgate parties, in violation of the “equal protection under the law” clause of the 14th Amendment

- impose city-mandated training in “strategies for working with the homeless”

- make sharing of home-cooked food illegal

- infringe on 1st amendment-protected rights to free assembly by requiring volunteer groups to obtain written permission to use public property

Call and email Houston city council members before:

Helena Brown,  832.393.3010, districta@houstontx.gov
Jerry Davis, 832.393.3009, districtb@houstontx.gov
Ellen Cohen, 832.393.3004, districtc@houstontx.gov
Wanda Adams, 832.393.3001, districtd@houstontx.gov
Mike Sullivan, 832.393.3008, districte@houstontx.gov
Al Hoang, 832.393.3002, districtf@houstontx.gov
Oliver Pennington, 832.393.3007, districtg@houstontx.gov
Ed Gonzalez, 832.393.3003, districth@houstontx.gov
James G. Rodriguez, 832.393.3011, districti@houstontx.gov
Mike Laster, 832.393.3015, districtj@houstontx.gov
Larry Green, 832.393.3016, districtk@houstontx.gov
Stephen C. Costello, 832.393.3014, atlarge1@houstontx.gov
Andrew C. Burks, Jr., 832.393.3013, atlarge2@houstontx.gov
Melissa Noriega, 832.393.3005, atlarge3@houstontx.gov
C.O. “Brad” Bradford, 832.393.3012, atlarge4@houstontx.gov
Jack Christie, 832.393.3017, atlarge5@houstontx.gov

Come out to a sharing at 521 Lamar St., 77002 (The Houston Downtown Public Library Courtyard) on Mon., Wed., & Fri. at 8pm, and Sunday at 7pm. Bring vegan food to share or just bring yourself!

read the Houston Chronicle Commentary here:

http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Commentary-Rules-needed-to-protect-homeless-3378112.php#src=fb

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20 Responses to Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat (update)

  1. [...] 1hOccupy Houston‏@OccupyHouston: Call the #HoustonCityCouncil members & tell them to strop criminalizing homelessness & humanitarian aid. #FoodNotBombs http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/houston-food-not-bombs-under-immediate-threat-please-fwd/ [...]

  2. OH stands with Food Not Bombs | OccupyHouston on March 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    [...] Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat [...]

  3. [...] http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/houston-food-not-bombs-under-immediate-threat-please-fwd/ - with this one, city by city, the governments are trying to contain those horrible domestic terrorists who are feeding people. These have to be the scariest terrorists yet. Watch out for the spatula wielding grandma and her deadly brownies. This is on the city council agenda tomorrow. [...]

  4. Free Earth on March 6, 2012 at 12:55 am

    They did this in Orlando too don’t let them do it in Houston-
    Texas don’t follow Florida’s lame ass down the toilet Do the right thing!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO0JdF48xsg

  5. OH stands with Food Not Bombs | Occupy News on March 6, 2012 at 3:47 am

    [...] Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat [...]

  6. Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat on March 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

    [...] Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat (Food Not Bombs) 04 Mar 2012 Houston Food Not Bombs has been sharing healthy vegetarian food with hundreds of hungry people… Well funded Houston homeless service organizations, developers, and city officials are promoting new regulations for dozens of groups like ours that provide food for the homeless in Houston every week. Wednesday March 7, at the 9am session, Houston City Council will consider amending chapter 20 of the code of ordinances, imposing five new regulatory and licensing requirements for those who feed hungry people in Houston. These regulations would bring the work of non-professionals who do homeless service work under city and police purview. [See action list.] [...]

  7. Margaret Bartley on March 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    What are the new rules and regulations that are being proposed, and why are you opposed to them?

    • NickCooper on March 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      Houston Should Not Amend Chapter 20 of its Code of Ordinances

      (http://www.houstontx.gov/citysec/backup/2012/030612.pdf pages 33 – 45)

      The increased government regulation described in this amendment will lead to more hungry Houstonians and criminalization of those trying to help the needy. It would have a chilling effect on the common sense, local, and faith-based initiatives trying to help the hungry in our communities. This amendment would make it increasingly illegal for unpaid citizens to assist others.

      Star of Hope estimates that in the last two years, Houston’s homeless population has increased by 25%, and the number of homeless families has doubled. The Coalition for Homeless’ most recent annual report demonstrates the resources available don’t cover this need as homelessness increases across the board. Especially in this economic downturn, unwarranted laws will create suffering.

      This change to the ordinance would:

      - impose additional surveillance and enforcement requirements on the police

      - require government permission to share food, criminalize citizens who do not have such permission (or had such permission taken away), and create a new complicated set of hearings, appeals, and consequences for those who lose such permission (punitive measures would include “cross-examination,” $2,000 a day fines, and criminal charges)

      - require an entirely different set of standards for those sharing food with the homeless compared to those sharing food at picnics or tailgate parties, in violation of the “equal protection under the law” clause of the 14th Amendment

      - impose city-mandated training in “strategies for working with the homeless”

      - make sharing of home-cooked food illegal

      - infringe on 1st amendment-protected rights to free assembly by requiring volunteer groups to obtain written permission to use public property

      Homelessness is not a crime. We shouldn’t require mandatory courses on strategies for working with any group of Houstonians. Sharing food in public space should not require permission. Volunteer, community, and faith based groups are able to help feed the homeless without making financial demands on the city, and as such should be held up as examples. Rather, under this new amendment, they would be criminalized.

      • patches on March 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

        I agree 100%, and Nick, you are doing a great job telling everyone what this is all about. Discrimination against the homeless takes many forms and is often dressed up in good intentions but it is always obvious to those who pay attention. Today, Fort Lauderdale is considering spending over $25k on an ad campaign that would encourage people to not give money to panhandlers. That’s right, $25,000 all to stop some guys from trying to get a buck or two instead of nothing. The only intent is getting rid of the homeless for the profit of downtown development cartels.

        • Leticia Ablaza on March 7, 2012 at 4:52 am

          Thank you for informing the public. CM Helena Brown is strongly opposed to this ordinance and we are doing what we can in the fight against this over regulation. Thank you to all of those who came down to city hall today to have your voices heard. Please continue to spread the word!

  8. NickCooper on March 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Listen to what we said to City Council:
    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/03/07/18708879.php

  9. NickCooper on March 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm
  10. [...] Food Not Bombs adds these points against the ordinance: [...]

  11. Edward Johnson on March 13, 2012 at 5:32 am

    How insane, “require government permission to share food, criminalize citizens who do not have such permission.” When I read on one hand that the Houston area has experience a 25% increase in the number of homeless and the organization, Food Not Bombs, has been in operation for 5 yrs. and has served 18,000 people, how commendable. What must those members of the City Counsel be thinking by even considering curtailing and criminalizing the generosity of the providing group Food Not Bombs. Give your people in need hope not despair, I beg that this “Feeding Ordinance” be defeated.

  12. jeffrey on March 29, 2012 at 4:23 am

    We support you. What can we really do from far away. How can we get our elected reps to understand that people need food without restrictions, from whoever is willing to provide it.

  13. Ptolemy Craig on May 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    If the council passes it, let’s eat their pets. Bake at 350.

    New Motto? Occupy and stir fry.

  14. Ptolemy Craig on May 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Food Not Bombs does an outstanding job of assisting both homeless persons and those working to make their grocery bills more manageable. They are always kind and courteous (non-judgmental) and make the lives of many much easier than they would otherwise be without their serivce.

  15. [...] Food Not Bombs expressed their anger and frustration in a piece titled (Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat). “ Houston Food Not Bombs has been sharing healthy vegetarian food with hundreds of hungry [...]

  16. OH stands with Food Not Bombs | Robert Butler on May 24, 2012 at 10:17 am

    [...] Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat [...]