Homeless feeding issue delayed

feed the hungry 2

After a protest on Wednesday, the city council yesterday delayed a vote on a controversial homeless issue.

The city council on Thursday delayed voting on a controversial proposal to further regulate feeding of the hard core homeless.

Homeless people and others will get a chance to speak on the ordinance next week at the Neighborhoods, Housing & Healthy Communities Committee.

The committee advanced it last week to the full council but protestors attacked it Wednesday . On Thursday some council members said they wanted to make sure homeless people, and not just agencies representing them, had a chance to testify.

So Councilman Scott Wagner, who shaped the ordinance after more than a year of talks, moved for the delay. He will also make a presentation next week in committee showing why the ordinance is a good idea, he said.

Then the full city council will vote on it next week, he said.

The ordinance would require a new kind of free permit for groups that go on site to hand out food at homeless camps.

Larger groups who feed them already have city permits but about 20 smaller groups do not and their feeding now is illegal, officials said.

The issues involved are complex, emotional and philosophical. Among them:

  • Neighborhoods don’t want the camps that result in mounds of trash, human waste and petty crime.
  • Some say giving people food and clothes at the sites enables them and prevents them from seeking help they need.
  • Others say that such hungry people must be fed out of common human decency.

But Wagner said the larger groups like the Salvation Army and Uplift already legally feed them, sometimes repeatedly within hours.

Wagner is chair of the Homelessness Task Force of Greater Kansas City, a group working to create a unified system to better address area homelessness.

He cites cases in other cities where well-meaning groups gave the homeless food poisoning.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason said, “If we care that much about food for people who can pay for it we should definitely care for people who can’t pay for it.”

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