Harrisburg Christian Groups Barred from Feeding the Homeless

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Then the righteous will answer him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink…?” And he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it for the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”                                                                                                                                                          -Matthew 25: 37-40

There is no tenet less basically Christian than feeding the hungry, which is what Isaiah 61 Ministries in concert with other Christian charities have done for years, passing out meals to the homeless in the parking lot of the Dauphin County Administrative building in Harrisburg, Pa. However, all that is about to change according to Dauphin County officials who told the organizers that they were no longer allowed to use the lot to feed often more than 100 people.

According to Deputy Chief Scott Burford, complaints from a Citizens Bank that rents space from the county have prompted this change in policy. They claim that the hungry use their ATM kiosk as a bathroom and that “bank workers have been harassed and heckled by homeless people.” They have recently put up “No Loitering” signs, which Burford says aren’t just to deter homeless people but also patrons from nearby bars who “stop there to relieve themselves before heading home.”

Volunteers are outraged at the development, suggesting that there are other ways in which to address the bank’s complaints. Also, because the parking lot is technically public land many supporters feel that they have a right to use that location. Mainly though, they are worried that if the location is moved, there will be less outreach as it is easier to help the homeless if services come to them instead of the other way around. Volunteers also like the location for its safety, as it is visible from two main streets.