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July 27, 2006 7:59 AM   Subscribe

The new war on hunger. No strangers to controversy, the Food Not Bombs Network generated further discord while distributing meals to others. In the course of its work, FNB's food lines often neglect the issue(s) of sanitation disposal. In response, Legislation has been swiftly drafted to correct problem; feeding the destitute in public gathering areas has since become a criminal offense in a number of cities.
posted by Smart Dalek (37 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
as the war on the poor marches on
posted by subtle_squid at 8:19 AM on July 27, 2006


This is a shame. I worked for years in a grocery store, and the sheer amount of (good) food thrown away was just offensive. I mean, shopping carts of sandwiches and cakes from the deli that 'expired' that day, or the next. I always thought it'd be great to organize something that made use of all this waste, and now I find out there are organizations like that, they're just illegal now.

What a country.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:40 AM on July 27, 2006


Please understand the logic. We don't feed you because we want to do it right.
We don't call for a ceasefire because we want a lasting peace.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:46 AM on July 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


Poop not bombs!
posted by anthill at 8:51 AM on July 27, 2006


Food Not Bombs has been doing a bang up job giving free bagels to hippies that could otherwise afford them in Boston's Copley Square every tuesday in the summertime for years. Stop by if you're in the area, and don't worry if you're grubby.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:55 AM on July 27, 2006


I work (off and on) with the Birmingham Alabama Food Not Bombs Chapter. We've had police try and intimidate us away from public spaces several times (asking for permits, telling us we're breaking the law [which we aren't,] etc.) Birmingham is looking at passing measures similar to these. It's disgusting, and shows an utter lack of respect for humanity.

Food is a right, not a privilege.
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 8:56 AM on July 27, 2006


Its a zoning issue: People ban some activity in their neighborhood, parks, etc. after finding real or precieved problems. So now you must have more capital, rent an office, follow regulations, and find a lawyer if you want to do it.

To change it you must convince people that feeding the homeless doesn't attract more homeless. Maybe it'd be worth your time to figure out if that is true first?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2006


City officials said they instituted the law in part because of recommendations from some who work with the homeless who say offering food separately from other services, such as counseling and drug treatment, is counterproductive.

Anyone what to bet that the "some who work with the homeless" that are saying these things are part of a faith based organization?

Las Vegas doesn't publish the email addresses of their government representatives but the mayor Oscar B. Goodman has an web form (found his email elsewhere: mayor-ogoodman@ci.las-vegas.nv.us)

Other council members forms: Their dead tree address is:
City Hall, Tenth Floor
400 Stewart Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Phone: (702) 229-6405
Fax: (702) 382-8558

I've let them all know how abhorrent I think this harassment is.
posted by Mitheral at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2006


jeffburdges: To change it you must convince people that feeding the homeless doesn't attract more homeless. Maybe it'd be worth your time to figure out if that is true first?

Why should anyone have to be convinced of that? If there's no law prohibiting people from hanging around in a public space, why would more of them hanging around be an issue? Because the homeless aesthetic offends some people?
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 9:03 AM on July 27, 2006


damnthesehumanhands - yeah, I think that's pretty much it. The 'not in my backyard' syndrome. As if the problem goes away by outlawing its symptoms.
posted by raedyn at 9:31 AM on July 27, 2006


Uh - Why don't the Food Not Bombs folks just do a clean-up sweep an hour after the feeding if that's really the issue? Seems like you cold enlist a small handful of the people you've fed if they aren't complete assholes.
But of course that's not really the issue. The issue is that the business types that run cities don't want to see homeless people gathered in one area.
posted by 2sheets at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2006


These seem to me like pretty reasonable laws. Like the Orlando City Council people say, downtown parks aren't soup kitchens. There are lots of consequences to assembling that many people in one place - why don't the Food Not Bombs people rent Port-a-Potties for their events? Why are they so intent on forcing the public and business owners in these areas to bear those burdens of the project?

Better yet, if the presence of all of these people is so inconsequential, how about holding one of these events at the private home of a Food Not Bombs activist? Seems pretty damn hypocritical to me.
posted by XMLicious at 12:18 PM on July 27, 2006


What's funny about the Vegas feud is that the ones who complain the loudest about the homeless live in the wards that are virtually all hispanic. If you want to witness black-hispanic racism at its sharpest, Vegas is the place.

Also, discouraging the homeless from settling in Vegas is for their own good; the heat is just plain too hot.

A side note: don't bother trying to get the casinos involved; the largest, most prosperous ones lie just to the south of the Las Vegas city line.
posted by mischief at 12:23 PM on July 27, 2006


Uther Bentrazor: USA Harvest and Kentucky Harvest are two organizations that do the work you thought of and they're not going anywhere soon.
posted by ?! at 12:33 PM on July 27, 2006


sigh.

why don't the Food Not Bombs people rent Port-a-Potties for their events?

my experience with FNB types is that they generally don't have that kind of flow. they're dumpster diving punks, fer chrissakes.

Why are they so intent on forcing the public and business owners in these areas to bear those burdens of the project?

because the public and business owners in the area are already bearing the burden of homelessness and poverty. if everyone could eat healthy every day, there would be less property tax going toward health care, shelters, policing, etc.

that said, of course, i agree that it would be trivial for them to arrange a few volunteers to clean up the park afterward. but i also wonder if some people are more prone to seeing litter after a bunch of homeless people are activists have been in the area. wouldn't surprise me.
posted by poweredbybeard at 1:29 PM on July 27, 2006


XMLicious:"Like the Orlando City Council people say, downtown parks aren't soup kitchens. There are lots of consequences to assembling that many people in one place - why don't the Food Not Bombs people rent Port-a-Potties for their events?

We're talking about a number of people so small at these "events" that things like Port-o-potties aren't needed. The public facilities work out just fine, at least here in Birmingham. 90% of the people at our food sharing events would have already been present. So the logic about "bringing in the homeless" is garbage. And "downtown parks aren't soup kitchens?" You're right! However, they are places where people (who have a place to live or not) can gather legally.

Why are they so intent on forcing the public and business owners in these areas to bear those burdens of the project?

Burdens? I'm still not clear on what extra burdens this project presents, since the people were, for the most part, there anyhow. Unless you're counting "affluent-people-having-to-look-at-unsightly-homeless-people" as a "burden," which I think is really what we're talking about here.

Better yet, if the presence of all of these people is so inconsequential, how about holding one of these events at the private home of a Food Not Bombs activist? Seems pretty damn hypocritical to me.

The point of sharing the food in these public spaces is because the people are already there. We bring the food to them. The place where we gather and cook / prepare the food every Sunday morning is 20 blocks from the public space we use to serve it. Asking them to come to us would be pretty useless, since about 1% of the people that eat with us have access to money for public transit or a car of their own, and wouldn't be able to make it. This would, in turn, invalidate the purpose of "food recycling," since we'd just end up throwing food away that had already been thrown away and reclaimed.

How about another question: what is it about seeing the homeless / displaced in a public space that bothers you so much?
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2006


To change it you must convince people that feeding the homeless doesn't attract more homeless. Maybe it'd be worth your time to figure out if that is true first?

Why should anyone have to be convinced of that? If there's no law prohibiting people from hanging around in a public space, why would more of them hanging around be an issue? Because the homeless aesthetic offends some people?


I can tell you, empirically, that feeding the homeless does attract the homeless. My neighborhood has struggled with this issue in an ongoing conflict between the neighborhood association and a local church which feeds the homeless. I can see that there are two perfectly valid sides to this issue. First, it's the Church's right as a humanitarian organization to help whoever it can. Unfortunately, a large portion of the homeless have substance abuse and mental health issues, and concentrating large groups of them in the area over extended periods of time (some of them have taken up residence in an adjacent park) has lead to some "unfortunate" incidents. Like it or not, people may have a right to eat, though I'm not sure what legal precedent establishes this, but eating, or doing anything, for that matter, in a given place at a given time is a privelege.
posted by pieisexactlythree at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2006


Why are they so intent on forcing the public and business owners in these areas to bear those burdens of the project?

because the public and business owners in the area are already bearing the burden of homelessness and poverty. if everyone could eat healthy every day, there would be less property tax going toward health care, shelters, policing, etc.

Riiight. I'm sure their real focus is on conserving tax revenues. Couldn't possibly be that they want the glory and warm fuzzies of crusading for the homeless while putting the more icky parts of it on someone else.

I definitely think that feeding the homeless is important. Maybe it's just because I've been involved in fundraising events for food shelters where we did rent the porta-a-potties and get the permits and ask permission, that this FNB stuff seems sloppy and self-interested to me rather than noble.

Sigh.
posted by XMLicious at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2006


pieisexactlythree: Like it or not, people may have a right to eat, though I'm not sure what legal precedent establishes this, but eating, or doing anything, for that matter, in a given place at a given time is a privelege.

I can't say I agree with this. Doing something perfectly legal, like eating, in a public space, isn't a privilege. I have a right to use public space. That's why it's public space. I have a right to do things that are not specifically outlawed. Like eating. Why is combining the two a "privilege?"

Am I completely off-base here? Is there a lawyer in the house?
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 1:47 PM on July 27, 2006


And, for the record, every time we hold an event, we stay until the food is gone so that we can pick up what trash gets thrown on the ground. The "litter" complaint is something we've never gotten.
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 1:48 PM on July 27, 2006



Better yet, if the presence of all of these people is so inconsequential, how about holding one of these events at the private home of a Food Not Bombs activist? Seems pretty damn hypocritical to me.

The point of sharing the food in these public spaces is because the people are already there. We bring the food to them. The place where we gather and cook / prepare the food every Sunday morning is 20 blocks from the public space we use to serve it. Asking them to come to us would be pretty useless, since about 1% of the people that eat with us have access to money for public transit or a car of their own, and wouldn't be able to make it. This would, in turn, invalidate the purpose of "food recycling," since we'd just end up throwing food away that had already been thrown away and reclaimed.

How about another question: what is it about seeing the homeless / displaced in a public space that bothers you so much?


It doesn't bother me. But I would imagine that the people who are bothered are probably bothered by the same thing that makes you so unwilling to consider putting some homeless people in your car and driving them the 20 blocks to the kitchen.
posted by XMLicious at 1:50 PM on July 27, 2006


It doesn't bother me. But I would imagine that the people who are bothered are probably bothered by the same thing that makes you so unwilling to consider putting some homeless people in your car and driving them the 20 blocks to the kitchen.

Are you suggesting that it would be anything other than insane to drive, say, 100 people across town (at 4 people per car, it would take 25 trips there and back) rather than driving food for 100 people across town (at food-for-25-people per car, four trips there and back)? That makes no sense to me. No matter how you slice it, it's more efficient to bring the food to the people, not the people to the food.
posted by vorfeed at 2:42 PM on July 27, 2006


damnthesehumanhands, the owner of any space, be it you, me or the City of Dumbassville gets to set the rules for what someone can do in a given space. They can prevent us from skateboarding, drinking beer, feeding ducks, etc. by passing a local ordinance to that effect. To my knowlege, these haven't been challenged on constitutional grounds.

XML - good point!
posted by pieisexactlythree at 2:44 PM on July 27, 2006


Oh, I'll just go and get my school bus then. The one I don't have, and takes gas to run. Sheesh, come on, you're just sounding ridiculous now.
posted by perianwyr at 2:47 PM on July 27, 2006


Food Not Bombs has been doing a bang up job giving free bagels to hippies that could otherwise afford them in Boston's Copley Square every tuesday in the summertime for years. Stop by if you're in the area, and don't worry if you're grubby.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:55 AM PST


VS the handouts to corporations from legislators lovingly gathered by lobbyists.

Them lobbyists do a bang up job... and no one cares so long as the money is green.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:05 PM on July 27, 2006


I imagine the reason that parks and other public places have so much trouble with these events is that they're large and recurring. A single event might be ok, since it would just disrupt the park temporarily, but any kind of large, recurring event should require the consent of the park managers. There is too much potential for tearing up the park grounds and disrupting all other users of the park otherwise. If there weren't rules for public parks, probably most of the parks in the country would be totally covered in tents.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:10 PM on July 27, 2006


It doesn't bother me. But I would imagine that the people who are bothered are probably bothered by the same thing that makes you so unwilling to consider putting some homeless people in your car and driving them the 20 blocks to the kitchen.

Are you suggesting that it would be anything other than insane to drive, say, 100 people across town (at 4 people per car, it would take 25 trips there and back) rather than driving food for 100 people across town (at food-for-25-people per car, four trips there and back)? That makes no sense to me. No matter how you slice it, it's more efficient to bring the food to the people, not the people to the food.

A hundred people, huh? That's a dramatic change from "We're talking about a number of people so small at these 'events' that things like Port-o-potties aren't needed."

Yeah, it's more efficient - especially if it isn't your restaurant or retail store that ends up providing facilities or loses business. There are lots of things that would be more efficient to hold in public parks or public squares.

Look, I do think that it would be best if it worked out for the FNB events to take place in the public parks. But from the sound of things the FNB people aren't interested in any form of compromise and are in fact completely intolerant of any concerns that the municipalities have. The Handbook posted on the FNB web site defiantly states that they don't need permits to put these hundred-person (plus?) events on and encourages organizers to disregard local authorities. So I'm a bit skeptical that these disputes are exclusively due to oppression from The Man.

Not only does this inflexibility erase any sympathy I might have, they seem rather enamored of themselves as the righteous good guys, and screw everyone else. That's a bit too close to the attitude of a certain federal official with the middle initial 'W', if you know what I mean.
posted by XMLicious at 3:19 PM on July 27, 2006


"what is it about seeing the homeless / displaced in a public space that bothers you so much?"

a) Because they don't stay in the park 24/7; they haunt nearby neighborhoods, presenting a hostile element to children (and private property).

b) When they do stay in the park, they present yet another hostile element, to those children who visit the park (and public property).

Please, don't feed the pigeons.
posted by mischief at 3:30 PM on July 27, 2006


"they don't stay in the park 24/7"

... especially on trash pickup day.
posted by mischief at 3:46 PM on July 27, 2006


pieisexactlythree writes "I can tell you, empirically, that feeding the homeless does attract the homeless."

So? The homeless aren't rats, feral cats or seagulls.

mischief writes "Because they don't stay in the park 24/7; they haunt nearby neighborhoods, presenting a hostile element to children (and private property)."

Leaving aside the claim that homeless people are a hazard to anyone; where exactly do you think the homeless go when they aren't getting a free sandwich in a public place? Squatting grounds in the country? Do you think they commute 100 miles for a sandwich and a bowl of soup?

XMLicious writes "A hundred people, huh? That's a dramatic change from 'We're talking about a number of people so small at these "events" that things like Port-o-potties aren't needed.'"

There doesn't seem to be a conflict between these two statements to me. Any park above the tot lot level should be able to handle 100 people visiting over the course of an hour or two.
posted by Mitheral at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2006


What part of "they haunt nearby neighborhoods" did you not understand?
posted by mischief at 4:15 PM on July 27, 2006


I just don't think anyone will become homeless just because they can get a free meal every now and then. The number of homeless people on the street will remain constant whether someone is feeding them or not. There isn't going to be some Ross Perot whirlpool causing them to hang around for a meal.
posted by Mitheral at 5:23 PM on July 27, 2006


"Now and then"? You oughtta talk to the pros who have staked out the corner of Desert Inn and Maryland.
posted by mischief at 5:35 PM on July 27, 2006


Mitheral, I don't think anyone's arguing that comfortable well off people are abandoning their homes to live in a park so they can get a semi-regular supply of reclaimed food. They are arguing that people who are already homeless, and were previously spread out over some area, will concentrate in that one park and surrounding streets if there is a regular supply of food there.

My parents are involved in a soup van that used to start by taking food to a park, then visit a lot of boarding houses around the city. They had to stop going to the park because the number of homeless people turning up increased massively, and people began to get violent because of the overcrowding, first just among each other and then threatening the members of the soup van.
posted by jacalata at 6:44 PM on July 27, 2006


jacalata writes "They are arguing that people who are already homeless, and were previously spread out over some area, will concentrate in that one park and surrounding streets if there is a regular supply of food there. "

I see that. I'm guess I'm just amazed that the solution to the obviousness of the homeless because of the visual concentration isn't to take steps to relieve homelessness. Instead they criminalize the giving of food to a fellow human and then compound the injustice by bragging about the intended selective enforcement.

Dang it I'm getting angry again. I'm out.
posted by Mitheral at 10:56 AM on July 28, 2006


Instead they criminalize the giving of food to a fellow human and then compound the injustice by bragging about the intended selective enforcement.

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about - no compromise, no flexibility, the people you disagree with are irrational extremists and you have no interest in addressing or even acknowledging their concerns. I bet this is how the FNB people initially responded to people's complaints. Laws like this getting passed as a consequence are no surprise.

Is the "selective enforcement" you're talking about when the Las Vegas councilman said "If you bought a couple of burgers and wanted to give them out, you technically would be in violation, but you wouldn't be cited"? Talk about demonizing the opposition. All he's saying is the equivalent of "You won't get a speeding ticket for going 66 MPH in a 65 MPH zone."
posted by XMLicious at 11:19 AM on July 28, 2006


"to take steps to relieve homelessness"

Which would be what exactly?

The chief cause of homelessness in Vegas is transients coming here from outside Nevada believing that with all the casinos, this place has jobs for them. However that is not necessarily the case.

First, to work for a casino, a potential employee must pass a criminal background check to get a sherrif's card.

Second, casinos promote from within. The only way to break in is to take a position at the absolute bottom of the ladder, even if you have a sterling degree from a renowned university. People without a minimum of a high school diploma will have a long difficult haul just to get work simply because of the competition.

So, how does one actively discourage people coming to a seemingly lucrative area to find work? Hell, a good many homeless came here with their life savings driven by egos convinced that they could make a fortune by gambling.

Further, the city of Las Vegas proper is like many large cities, a poor population base surrounded by prosperous suburbs.

Chastise Goodman via email all you want, it won't help. Vegas needs expert urban planners with political pull at the county level, the business network to deal with some of the most powerful CEOs in the world (who don't live in Vegas Valley), and the marketing savvy to resuscitate the long-struggling gambling/tourist industry within the city limits.

Goodman is all bluster now. He was at home when Vegas was mob-run and the local catholic church was influenced by such. Now however, the state of Nevada has chased most of the organized crime out of gambling, construction and the unions, and the local catholic church is influenced by rich and upper income hispanics. The cultural influence of that has been to take care of family first, and the welfare of others is placed very near the bottom of the list.

So, add it up: an impotent city government, a division of the catholic church whose traditions are rooted in the inquisition, a highly transient population even among those who do work, an urban core struggling with an entire host of problems topped by a very high cost of living, a deadly desert climate, one of the highest crime rates in the US, a huge county geographically as large as some eastern states much of which is unincorporated and is going to stay that way, and a voter base that very much prefers the status quo and has no sympathy for newcomers.

So, how about some real suggestions instead of all this dismayed folderol?
posted by mischief at 11:58 AM on July 28, 2006


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