Houston Food Not Bombs Under Immediate Threat (update)

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: