Homeless feeding law dies on tie vote


An ordinance for regulation on feeding the hard core homeless died Thursday on a tie vote in the city council.

The six-six vote followed long debate and another six-six vote on returning the ordinance to committee for more discussion.

For Councilman Scott Wagner, the loss ended talks on the issue that began in January 2013.

He said that the ordinance establishing a new free permit helped small groups that feed at sites like homeless camps.

About 20 small groups now feed illegally without permits and health workers sometimes close down the operations, officials said.

But Councilman Ed Ford, who voted against the ordinance, said part of the problem was that talks on the matter began after neighborhoods, the city and police cracked down on a large homeless camp by Kessler Park in the northeast.

The issue was mounds of trash(that included food containers), human sewage and petty crime.

The permits for feeding that came out of those issues create “a monkey wrench,” he said, “a false issue.”

Wagner’s arguments for it make sense, he said, but “as long as there’s a perception that what we’re voting on makes it harder to service the homeless, I cannot support it.”

At the same time, he said, “I think we all can agree Kessler Park wasn’t good for anyone – it’s not a livability issue, it’s a dieability issue.”

The ordinance in part would have promoted discussion among food sharing groups and neighborhoods.

Wagner is a former neighborhood president and chair of the Homelessness Task Force of Greater Kansas City, which works to create a unified system to address area homelessness.

He said he is amazed there is not more support for neighborhoods in dealing with homeless camps and the problems they cause.

“What they’re told is, you’re a terrible person, you’re a bad neighborhood,” he said.

The ordinance would have required food prepared in a permitted kitchen, with proper temperature maintained while transporting and serving, and marked wrappers so food could be traced in the event of illness or trash.

Providers also would have had to get free training in food matters and on shelter services and social service groups that help the homeless, and they would have had to provide trash receptacles if they were not there.

Jermaine Reed made the failed motion to send it back to committee and also voted against it.

“I subscribe to the notion that if you are homeless you should eat,” he said.

Councilman John Sharp noted that a Salvation Army official spoke against the ordinance at a hearing this week. The Salvation Army, Uplift and other large groups feed the homeless at camps legally now with other permits that they pay for and training they provide.

“When they raise these concerns, it is probably better to allow some further dialog,” Sharp said. “If we can get a little more consensus, … so people can feel good about it.”

Wagner said the Salvation Army and other such groups had told him they supported the ordinance, “but when the cameras come on, they’ll tell you something else.”

Sharp voted to send it back to committee and when that failed, he voted to kill it.

One Comment

  1. elise says:

    Thank you for being one of two local outlets covering this story.

Leave a Comment