Recent years have brought a disturbing trend to cities across the United States. More and more of them have been implementing prohibitions on feeding the homeless. Since 2010, there has been a 47% increase in the number of cities passing such laws. Since 2013, there have been 21 cities to implement restrictions on feeding the homeless, while another 10 cities are in the process of doing so.
Cities aren’t outright banning feeding homeless people, however they are limiting when and where you can do it , requiring permits for it and levying fines in certain circumstances. For example, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a new law prohibits feeding centers from being within 500 feet of each other, and also within 500 feet of residential areas. A Daytona Beach couple was fined $746 and banned from a park for feeding homeless people there.
Proponents of these laws argue that “street feeding” homeless people helps to keep them in a state of homelessness. If that sounds like bullshit, it’s because it is. In fact, the National Coalition on the Homeless have issued a report indicating that providing the homeless free food does not give them an incentive to stay on the street.
Putting these laws in perspective, consider that we now live in an America where, when dealing with unlimited campaign spending by corporations, money is considered speech, and a protected right. Yet, providing somebody with a free meal is criminal. That speaks volumes about where we are as a society and whose interests are being served by public policy.