Should it be a crime to give food to the homeless?

In a growing number of American cities, giving food to a homeless person is a crime.

According to a report released this week, 21 cities have passed measures aimed at restricting the people who feed the homeless over the last year and a half. Ten more cities are considering it, NPR reports.

Cities like Fort Lauderdale aren’t throwing people in jail for feeding the homeless or being homeless. But often, they’re creating more ways to impose fines.

And yet, Stoops argues that the measures will ultimately be ineffective in addressing the real problem: homelessness itself.

“Cities’ hope is that restricting sharing of food will somehow make [the] homeless disappear and go away,” (Michael)Stoops (of the National Coalition for the Homeless), tells The Salt. “But I can promise you that even if these ordinances are adopted, it’s not going to get rid of homelessness.”

In the Twin Cities, a campaign was launched to try to convince people to donate money or food to a food shelf rather than give it to the homeless. But none of the cities enacting or considering legislation to criminalize food distribution is in Minnesota.

Here’s the report (.pdf).

  • Robert Moffitt

    For God’s sake, America. I’m thankful that hasn’t happened here — yet. I ‘m not so naïve to believe that it couldn’t happen here, too.

  • Veronica

    Of course….Florida.

    My mother lives in Miami. Other than the warm weather, I don’t know why anyone with a conscious (or a remote need for health care) would live there.

  • Anna

    People are homeless for a variety of reasons—loss of a job, mental illness, divorce, abusive husbands, drug addicted parents, abusive boyfriends, etc.. I agree that denying them food is not going to make them go away.

    For some it has become a way of life because they were not given a hand up to pull themselves out of poverty. The government dole can become a vicious cycle because if they do find even marginal employment, their welfare benefits are cut, they can’t pay the rent and they are back on the street again.

    We have to get rid of the cycle of poverty before we can even begin to make a dent in the homeless population.

    I truly hope it never becomes a crime in Minnesota to feed a homeless person on the street. Most of the cities are in areas where the winters are milder and shelters are probably in short supply because there is no severe cold to make their existence needed.

  • Jim G

    I’m no constitutional attorney, however it seems that these laws could be challenged and most they likely would be found to be unconstitutional. I know they are un-American.

  • ML in Mpls

    Well, as one has already said–for God’s sake–are we so far from the spirit of community sharing to ensure survival that we are no longer truly ‘American’? Those who experience homelessness need homes, in which they would have a refrigerator and a stove (required by law for any rental housing), so they could cook their own food. It is not a way of life by choice, but by default. In many cases, the harsh circumstances in shelters (crimes/pests/dehumanizing indignity of overcrowding and loss of autonomy) outweighs the relative independence of being able to live with a degree of retained decision-making and enough space to ‘be’. Multiple states have found it is less costly to house the homeless in livable apartments (not shelters), linked closely with services and let the healing come as it will. I applaud any similar efforts in MN, and will vote for any political candidate who speaks compassionately to this issue. Lack of affordable housing, education barriers due to costs, and Wall Street impacts on daily lives are the reasons one slips into homelessness over time (it isn’t a choice one sets as a personal goal and works to accomplish!).

  • Joseph Wisgirda

    Stop feeding the needy and the homeless? What a noble Christian thing to do …..

  • Joseph Wisgirda

    These people are starving and municipalities are citing health concerns … guess what? Malnutrition is also a health concern. People like Food Not Bombs are doing good works, godly works …… There is a special place in greedy white person hell for the genius city councilman who came up with that one …