Tampa Homeless Advocates Arrested for Feeding Homeless Without Permits

This past weekend the residents of Tampa, Fla., eagerly anticipated the coming College Football Playoff National Championship and the variety of celebratory events centered around it. Thousands from around the country came to the city to view the sporting spectacle, and Tampa was glad to welcome them.

Unfortunately, Tampa was less than happy to make those already living in the city feel at home.

While many locals and visitors gathered at the city-owned Lykes Gaslight Square Park for a free concert Saturday, nearby a number of homeless individuals were wondering how they were going to get through the coming week in freezing weather without food.

Tampa’s local Food Not Bombs group, an organization that exists in many cities across the country and has developed a reputation for homeless advocacy, recognized this crisis and gathered to try to help these people.

Setting up makeshift counters from which to dispense vegan and vegetarian meals, members of Food Not Bombs began handing out warm food in Lykes Gaslight Square Park Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t long before this caught the attention of Tampa police.

Approaching the Food Not Bombs members, a police lieutenant told them to cease their activities or face arrest. Why? As hard as it may be to believe, the main reason given was that they had been feeding the homeless people without a permit. On top of that, police say the activists had been found serving meals previously in the public park and told that if they returned for any reason doing so would be considered trespassing.

Disregarding both warnings, the volunteers continued handing out food; seven ended up arrested.

Please note that this video contains mature language:

Food Not Bombs says they have given out meals for years, often twice a week; last year they did so on more than 100 different occasions.

With a homeless crisis present in virtually every U.S. city, does combating charity seem like the best use of taxpayer dollars? According to a spokesman for the Tampa Police Department, it certainly does, saying the volunteers were violating a city ordinance, explaining that if “you set up table, chairs and everything” without a permit it is a crime.

Why didn’t the Food Not Bombs volunteers simply get a permit? Besides the bureaucratic red tape which would likely involve fees and deposits, a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance is required, making it a highly prohibitive process, especially for a grassroots charity group.

Tampa clearly has their priorities in order.

Care2 readers may recall a strikingly similar series of events in Denver, Colo., recently when police were videoed confiscating tents, blankets and sleeping bags from homeless individuals during subzero temperatures. The reasons given for these actions? Much like Tampa’s police, the Denver officers claimed they were merely enforcing a city ordinance, one which prohibits “urban camping.”

While few would try to claim that police in U.S. cities are responsible for solving homelessness, they are undeniably tasked with enforcing laws and ordinances designed to punish their most vulnerable residents. Or, as a member of Food Not Bombs remarks, they have “criminalized” kindness and charity.

Homelessness is far from an unavoidable aspect of American city life – it is something that can be solved, if the desire is there. Right now it is a shameful epidemic ignored by politicians and lawmakers whose tunnel vision cannot (or will not) acknowledge not only the woeful human cost but, as they so often focus on with regard to other matters, the fiscal cost. Why do so many cities find the only way to deal with the homeless is to either ignore them or treat them and those that aid them as criminals?

If you believe Tampa lawmakers need to reevaluate their priorities and focus their city’s time and resources on helping the homeless – rather than criminalizing charity – then please consider sharing and adding your name to the Care2 petition to make your voice heard!

Photo Credit: YouTube


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

George L
George Labout a year ago


Chen B
Chen Boon Fookabout a year ago

thank you for posting

Marija K
Marija Kabout a year ago

So apparently, you can get arrested for handing people food...

Deborah W
Deborah Wabout a year ago

May all involved in these heartless acts one day find themselves, family or friends in the same spot themselves ... so they can see first-hand what life is reduced to for the homeless and helpless. Of course, as usual, this won't help the current batch -- but there will always be batches if this is allowed and supported. Hard to believe what we've allowed ourselves to become.

Chun Lai T
Chun Lai Tabout a year ago

Thanks for the info

Siyus C
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

S Mabout a year ago

Stupid Issa stupid does of this council. Suppose they think it outdoor restaurant catering!

Hent c
Hent catalina - mariaabout a year ago


Hent c
Hent catalina - mariaabout a year ago