Meet the Town That Now Requires Permits and Large Fees to Feed the Homeless

Written by Scott Keyes

Last August, the city of Columbia, S.C., approved a new plan to give its homeless population an impossible choice: leave downtown or be arrested.

The city is now taking even more steps to criminalize homelessness. On Saturday, it will begin to strictly enforce an old and seldom-used ordinance requiring groups of 25 or more to obtain a permit and pay a hefty fee before congregating in a public park.

One impacted charity that was interviewed by the Free Times, Food Not Bombs, has been serving food to the homeless in Finlay Park every Sunday for 12 years. The group’s organizer, Judith Turnipseed, noted that the group has an impeccable track record and always tidies up after the meal. But with the new crackdown, Food Not Bombs will have to pay at least $120 per week for the right to feed the homeless, an extremely tall order for a group that’s not even an official 501(c)(3) organization but just serves out of the goodness of its heart.

In fact, stopping groups like Food Not Bombs from serving may be just the point. Since the Columbia City Council approved its exile plan in August, the city has been trying to herd its homeless people to a shelter on the outskirts of town and keep them away from downtown. If charities continue to provide food in downtown parks, the thinking goes, it will allow homeless people to continue to live downtown, rather than being forced to leave.

Turnipseed is currently considering legal action to prevent enforcement of the measure.

Columbia is part of an unfortunate trend of cities that have decided to crack down on charity groups that feed the homeless. Others that have passed or are considering ordinances include RaleighSt. LouisHarrisburg and Los Angeles.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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june t.
june t.about a year ago

they want homelessness to be hidden. Shameful.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe1 years ago

These cities should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking of doing this to the homeless, let alone following through with it.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla1 years ago

Is this true? Wow... Shame!!!

Nimue P.
Nimue Pendragon1 years ago


Deborah W.
Deborah W.1 years ago

More rules and regulations ... less freedom.

When those we've hired (voted for) abuse their power it's time to fire them (that's what elections are all about). Time voters track the history of their employees, see what they'v done or not done on our behalf and vote accordingly.

Latonya W.
Latonya W.1 years ago


Maria Kenyon
Maria Kenyon1 years ago

Are they serious, criminalizing homelessness. Give the a hand UP, don't slap them further down!!!

Mary B.
Mary B.1 years ago

Refusing anyone to feed or shelter the homeless is a crime against humanity, and as far as I know is an international law. These fools who are doing this should be arrested, fined big time and removed from office now. This isn't a 'vote them out' kind of thing. Food is basic to life and making it harder for some to get food or shelter is deliberate attempted murder for god's sake.Any city or state that does not take care of it's most vulnerable people is criminal behavior.How can anyone even question that?

Lisa Patrick
Lisa Patrick1 years ago

People being fined for doing the right thing? That just makes things worse for the homeless.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.1 years ago

It is so disturbing that providing a human kindness has now been made illegal and that being poor is a jailable offense. However, my backwards thoughts on this issue is they don't want people to feed the homeless which costs the city nothing. On the other hand, if the homeless stay in the city, they will be arrested and put in jail to receive 3 hots and a cot all on the city's dime. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy? It is unbelievable the degree of selfishness and arrogance that people have achieved. I hope karma hits the enforcers.