The Los Angeles City Council is considering a proposal that would ban the feeding of homeless people in public due to complaints from homeowners.
The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition has been feeding the homeless from a truck each night for 27 years. Two members of the city council proposed the measure after nearby homeowners complained.
The city has the second largest homeless population in America, which has increased by 27 percent in the last year, ThinkProgress reported.
“If you give out free food on the street with no other services to deal with the collateral damage, you get hundreds of people beginning to squat,” actor Alexander Polinsky told the New York Times. “They are living in my bushes and they are living in my next door neighbor’s crawl spaces. We have a neighborhood which now seems like a mental ward.”
The director of the National Coalition of the Homeless says restricting public feeding just drives the homeless out and doesn’t fix the problem.
“It’s a common but misguided tactic to drive homeless people out of downtown areas,” said Jerry Jones.
More than 30 cities have public feeding laws, including Philadelphia, Seattle, Orlando and Raleigh, N.C.
“This is an attempt to make difficult problems disappear,” Jones said. “It’s both callous and ineffective.”
City councilman Tom LaBonge, one of the members who introduced the resolution, says there are two sides to the story.
“There are well-intentioned people on both sides,” LaBonge said. “This has overwhelmed what is a residential neighborhood. When dinner is served, everybody comes and it’s kind of a free-for-all.”
There are 53,800 homeless people in L.A. County, many of whom rely on these meals to survive.
“They are helping human beings,” wheelchair-bound Debra Morris told The Times. “I can barely pay my own rent.”
“People here — it’s their only way to eat,” said one homeless man, Aaron Lewis. “The community doesn’t help us eat.”
“There are people here who really need this,” said Emerson Tenner, while waiting in line for a meal. “A few people act a little crazy. Don’t mess it up for everyone else.”
Ted Landreth, the founder of the food coalition, said they faced similar complaints in 1990. Back then, the organization was ordered out of Plummer Park in West Hollywood.
“The people who want to get rid of us see dollar signs, property values, ahead of pretty much everything else,” he said. “We have stood our ground. We are not breaking any law.”