In March, a Houston police officer ticketed a homeless man for digging through trash in search of food. James Kelly, a 44-year-old Navy veteran, was cited for “disturbing the contents of a garbage can in [the] downtown business district.” The rule cited was a 70-year-old anti-scavenging statute that’s been revised over the decades to expand the types of containers protected from, in the law’s original language, “molesting."You have to "love" government doublethink: "We're not punishing homeless people for taking food from the trash: we're just punishing them for going through the trash in the first place!"
HPD defended the ticket at first, explaining in a statement, “It is a violation for anyone to remove any contents … placed for collection of garbage, trash or recyclable material. An officer has probable cause to issue such a citation when a person is seen opening a lid and rummaging through contents of a dumpster or trash can.”
But then the story went viral. Media outlets from Fox News to the Huffington Post ran indignant squibs about the ticket. That’s when HPD clarified that Kelly wasn’t cited for trying to feed himself but for littering. “It’s not officers being inhumane,” Houston Police Officers’ Union President Ray Hunt told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s police officers responding to citizens’ complaints about someone removing garbage from their garbage can and leaving it on the ground. It’s creating a mess.”
Hunt said officers wouldn’t ticket someone just for removing food, although, according to the citation itself and the original HPD statement, Kelly was cited not for littering or for removing food but for having given an officer probable cause to believe he might remove food.
Clearly the city of Huston has their priorities straight: making sure the city streets surrounding garbage cans and dumpsters is clear of litter is far more important than making sure its homeless have a bite to eat!
This isn't the only insane Huston city ordinance preventing the homeless from being fed. The article also mentions an ordinance banning the distribution of food "to more than five needy people at once" on public property without written permission from the city.
This law is supposed to protect the homeless from food poisoning; but really, if you prevent people from feeding the homeless because of this, what other alternative do the homeless have but to scavenge through dumpsters where they're certain to eat something with food poisoning?
Oh wait! I guess we don't have to worry about that since dumpster diving is against the law. Now the only alternative is for the homeless to starve. Hooray for government!
And unfortunatley, Huston is not the only city with ordinances that punish people for feeding the homeless:
• Three activists were arrested in an Orlando park for feeding the homeless. The city bans feeding groups larger than 25 people on public property without a permit, and permits can only be distributed twice a year per location. (Because as we all know, the homeless can only be fed twice a year!)
• A Louisiana homeless shelter was forced to destroy 1,600 pounds of deer meat donated by hunters. Why? Because the state health department does not recognize venison as "an approved meat source" and health inspectors were unable "to verify how the deer were killed, prepared or stored.” Was there anything wrong with the donated deer meat? No. But the health department can't be too careful, now can it?
• State Nanny Michael Bloomberg banned food donations to NYC homeless shelters. Why? Because "it's impossible to gauge the items' salt, fiber, and other nutritional stats." (Somehow I feel the homeless care less about what they eat and more about eating period!)
• Across the country, churches and other private organizations have been prevented by local health departments from feeding the homeless. As always, it's always for health and safety reasons. (Because being fed a warm meal from a church is far risky than getting your meal from the dumpster--or worse, starving!)
• Before 2011, San Diego had banned Wal-Mart supercenters--which provide the poor with affordable groceries--from being built within city limits. The ban has since been lifted, but similar bans exist throughout California and other states. (Because providing the poor with cheap food oppresses them! "Social justice" requires them to be free to buy expensive organic food at Whole Food Stores instead.)
Time and again, we are told that we need the government to provide for the poor and needy, and we are warned that if we were to roll back government and allow the free market to take over, poor people would starve to death.
But stories like this and many others reveal the opposite to be true: needless government regulation prevents private individuals and charities from feeding the poor, forcing them to starve.
When are we going to learn that it's not the government's responsibility to look after the poor and needy? When are we going to realize that it's our responsibility? And how long are we going to allow the government to do more harm than good by looking after us?
The government may have good intentions, but good intentions pave the road to hello. It's time for the government to allow people to help others without sticking its nose into our business.