California City Uses Health as Pretense to Ban Feeding the Homeless

The California city of El Cajon, located in San Diego County, is one of the latest communities taking aggressive measures to tackle hunger and poverty in the United States. However, rather than enacting ordinances or programs aimed at helping these individuals, El Cajon has declared war on the homeless and not homelessness itself.

Back in October, the El Cajon City Council voted to temporarily ban food distribution on public properties such as parks. This move prompted a sharp backlash from groups like Food Not Bombs who claim that this is little more than an attempt to target the community’s most vulnerable citizens.

Officials, however, maintain that the ordinance was passed due to health concerns. They insist that handing out food that hasn’t faced inspection by the city would be hazardous, due to an outbreak of hepatitis A in the county.

But critics of the ordinance aren’t buying this explanation, pointing out that the outbreak has slowed. More importantly, the spread of hepatitis A — especially among homeless people — can be attributed to a lack of sanitary bathroom facilities and not through food, homeless advocates say. They argue that if city officials were truly concerned about the health and wellbeing of these individuals, they would focus on providing greater access to clean facilities.

Meanwhile, several lawyers have explained that the legality of this city ordinance is questionable — and that it may be a breach of First Amendment rights.

As troubling as this case is, El Cajon is far from the first city to pass laws that take aim at people who volunteer to help the homeless.

In Atlanta, homeless advocates say police are handing out leaflets warning that those who feed homeless people without a permit would face legal repercussions. City officials justified the action by expressing concern for food safety and littering.

Back in California, the wealthy city of Malibu has also adopted a similar tactic, with city officials asking a local church to end its weekly routine of feeding homeless people over the past three years. The city claims that putting an end to the program could reduce the city’s already low crime rates.

And in Tampa, Florida, a group that regularly held functions to serve food to the city’s homeless was actually arrested earlier this year.

Being homeless is not a crime. When cities outlaw acts of generosity that could quite literally save lives, it sends a very clear message to the most unfortunate residents of those communities: You are a burden, and we will not support you.

It is nothing short of cruel and inhumane.

Take Action!

Urge El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and the city council to rescind the ordinance against feeding the city’s homeless population by signing this Care2 petition.

Photo Credit: John Ramspott/Flickr

52 comments

Jen S
Jen Syesterday

I'd already signed this. I do not believe allowing the homeless to starve is very healthful. And outlawing feeding the homeless will surely draw fire. I may not make it to church every Sunday but I have never missed a volunteer day at the church's daily lunch for the homeless and others.

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pam w
pam w1 days ago

Already signed and hoping for the best outcome.

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Cen S
Cen Sored2 days ago

The food used to feed the homeless is worse than dumpster diving because of health concerns? Ah wretch.

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Winn Adams
Winn A2 days ago

:-(

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Winn Adams
Winn A2 days ago

already signed petition

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Deborah S
Deborah S2 days ago

This wrong, wrong, wrong. What a bunch of snots
It is alright to be homes but not in my town.
.

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Joan E
Joan E2 days ago

The health and welfare of the people is the most crucial aspect of government.

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Toni W
Toni W3 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W3 days ago

TYFS

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Elaine W
Elaine W3 days ago

This is wrong. I signed.

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