Small groups feeding homeless might face new city regulation

city-hallBy Joe Lambe

A city council committee on Wednesday advanced a measure to regulate people who go on site to feed the homeless.

Talks have been underway on the issue for more than a year, since police, the city and neighborhood residents cracked down on a large homeless camp by Kessler Park in the northeast.

The camp resulted in mounds of trash, including food containers, and also raw sewage and petty crime, police reported.

In a press release in January 2013, City Manager Troy Schulte said: “…the (homeless) problem is exasperated by well-meaning organizations, other than established providers, that feed and clothe transients who live in parks and enable those who do not wish to take advantage of the support services that the community provides.”

The feeding also exposes the homeless to possible food poisoning, the city contends, but those who support programs like “Taking it to the Streets” say the real issue is that neighbors don’t want the homeless in their parks.

The proposed city ordinance advanced Wednesday would require a free permit for the programs. Food would have to be prepared at a permitted kitchen, with proper temperature maintained while transporting the food for no more than four hours, and there would have to be a marked wrapper or container so food could be traced in the event of illness.

Providers would also have to get training on food matters and on shelter services and social service agencies that help the homeless. And they would have to provide trash containers if none were there.

The Neighborhoods, Housing & Healthy Communities Committee advanced the measure with a recommendation for passage. It now goes to the full city council.

If passed, it would not go into effect until November 1, giving time for an education campaign for people and groups involved, said Councilman Scott Wagner.

He is also chair of The Homelessness Task Force of Greater Kansas City. The task force of the Mid-America Regional Council is working to create a unified system to address area homelessness.

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