At Least 9 Volunteers Face Charges for Feeding Homeless in California

Cities in the United States, many trying to cope with high numbers of homeless people, have adopted a curious tactic: targeting the volunteers trying to alleviate poverty. And though some places are actively working to eliminate homelessness, the same cannot be said for others.

Arguably, this shift began as communities enacted laws and ordinances that offered some variation on the euphemistic “urban camping” ban, which effectively makes it illegal to sleep outside.

After these laws were enacted in a variety of U.S. cities, unsatisfied lawmakers have taken to pursuing charitable individuals – the people who have taken it upon themselves to provide their local homeless community with food and other necessities.

Generally, city leaders have established bans on distributing food in certain areas, like public parks. And while these ordinances were initially viewed as toothless — more of a warning than anything else — communities are starting to actively enforce them.

In the latest example, at least nine people were charged with misdemeanors in El Cajon, California, for proving food, toiletries and socks to homeless people in a public park. Some sources state that as many as a dozen people have been charged.

Police reportedly arrived at the park to disperse the volunteers, citing a city ordinance passed in October that prohibits the sharing of food in public spaces. Unsurprisingly, that policy stirred up controversy among homeless advocates, who condemned it for attempting to intimidate volunteers.

Just as unsurprisingly, the city officials who backed the ban justify it by claiming that the ordinance is actually designed to protect the health of the homeless. As the policy’s supporters point out, El Cajon and surrounding San Diego County experienced a Hepatitis A outbreak last year. Opponents of the ban, however, claim that the peak of the outbreak occurred long before the ordinance was passed, arguing that health concerns were merely a smokescreen.

Sadly El Cajon isn’t the only place trying to make good Samaritans regret their charitable deeds.

Recently, a man living in the Chicago suburb of Elgin faced the threat of having his home condemned by authorities. Greg Schiller says he had been offering local homeless individuals access to his basement, where he provided cots, sleeping bags, food, water, bathroom use and even screened movies throughout the night. Schiller says he only offers this space when the shelters in the area are too full and temperatures drop to life-threatening levels. Alcohol and drugs are strictly forbidden, he says.

Authorities claim that the basement is not up to code and only fit for storage. Schiller was told that if he did not cease his “slumber parties,” the house will be condemned.

It is strange to think that authorities in Elgin are concerned about exposure to carbon monoxide inhalation, yet fail to offer an alternative to sleeping outside in below freezing temperatures. A person could easily die when exposed to the elements – is that preferable to hypothetical hazards?

And El Cajon is no different. City officials seem more concerned about the comparably small risk of viral infection than hungry residents without a place to sleep.

Photo Credit: Louis Tanner/Flickr

148 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John B
John B2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Maureen G
Maureen G3 months ago

So very callous of the city officials.

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Paola S
Past Member 3 months ago

Thanks for posting

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie3 months ago

Thank you so very much

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie3 months ago

Thank you so very much

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie3 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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