Why Police Stopped an Alabama Pastor From Feeding the Homeless

Written by Scott Keyes

A pastor determined to live out the Bible’s dictate that we feed the poor was shut down by local police because he didn’t have a permit to serve food.

Twice a month, Rick Wood, a pastor at The Lord’s House of Prayer in Oneonta, Ala., gets in his truck and drives around Birmingham with more than a hundred hot dogs and bottles of water, handing them out to the homeless. Wood has been serving those in need for the past six years because he wants to put Matthew 25:35-40 — “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” a scripture verse he has plastered on the side of his truck — into action.

But last month, Wood was stopped from handing out food by local police because he was in violation of a new city ordinance, passed in December, that regulates food trucks. The new regulation requires food trucks to get a permit, which can cost as much as $500. Though the ordinance is specifically targeted at retail food vendors, rather than charities, the city nevertheless used it to block Wood.

He was livid. “That makes me so mad,” Wood said in an interview with ABC 33/40 News. “These people are hungry. They’re starving. They need help from people. They can’t afford to buy something from a food truck.”

The pastor accused Birmingham of wanting “to chase them out of the city.”

ABC 33/40 News’ video has more:

Though the homeless population has been declining in Birmingham, significant need remains. A 2013 survey found 1,469 homeless people in the Birmingham area, a figure that has declined 36 percent in the past five years but still accounts for nearly half of all homeless people in Alabama. One-third of Birmingham’s homeless, 509 people, had no shelter at all when the 2013 count was conducted.

Birmingham is not the only city to shut down groups that hand out meals to the homeless. From St. Louis to Raleigh to Philadelphia to Orlando, city governments have implemented new restrictions on charity groups that feed the homeless. Los Angeles is considering a similar measure.

Back in Birmingham, Wood has defiantly vowed to keep serving food to the homeless. “The homeless can’t help the position they’re in,” he said. “They need help.”

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Punish law for being cruel to humans.

Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago


Michelle Spradley

Pam: I guess now when the homeless people get sick from lack of food they can sue the police department!

Perhaps this pastor could just host a picnic on the church grounds for all of his
"friends". Hot dogs are the pre-eminent picnic food.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

It is a sad day when helping another person is illegal.

I would consider a "food truck" by definition is a truck "selling" food - not giving away food and using that definition he would not need a "permit". This is someone's ghastly excuse to continue to hurt the homeless.

pam w.
pam w3 years ago

Perhaps the problem is a fear of litigation if someone should become sick from eating the free food?

Pinke A.
Pinke A3 years ago

Well,now we have heard it all! This one "law" takes the first price of stupidity! Congrats Alabama,Birmingham!

George Markopoulos

Police is the security of the system. The system wants people tired and without hope and desire for life because only then many people will not vote in the elecctions. So they don't want you to give food or hope to homeless people. These policemen served the system very well, but not the people. But they are paid from the people. So they don't do their jobs because they secure the system and not us(their employers). We must reshape the system and the police. By voting and with movements on the streets. Imagine all the homeless people only in USA to participate (everyone) in the elections..the result would be entirely different. Even one vote matters, they pay or kill for one vote. So it always matters.

Don Swanz
Don Swanz3 years ago

ERIC L: What a crappy comparison! If you are going to compare bears in a park to the homeless on the streets, then do it right.

When bears in park are feed by humans - "ignoranuses" who apparently can not read - we are bringing them OUT OF their natural habitat. Getting them back in, is near to impossible.

Homeless are ALREADY out of their natural habitat. It is our responsibility to get them back in. An extremely difficult task but not nearly as difficult as getting the bears back into theirs.

Everyone needs a hand up at least once in their lifetime. Don and I CAN1 :-))

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

Eric, what makes you think that you have anything to teach a homeless person that they don't already know? There are so many factors that come into play, like what is useful in their immediate surroundings. You don't START by with holding food because of some stupid comparison to bears in the parks.And yes, we've all heard your speal about everything coming from taxes, and while I agree with you about the Fair Tax bill, that's about all, so unless you have something new to say, don't bother replying.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

In parks we have signs: Don't feed the bears. If all you do is feed them but do not teach them to change their situation how much are you really helping?

And the $500 fee for food trucks is just a barrier to entry to limit competition.