Westminster Council is currently considering putting in place new laws which will make it illegal to give food to homeless people on the streets. We've been sent a cautionary tale by the St Vincent de Paul Society in Florida, USA, where it is already illegal to feed homeless people in public parks. The tell us the Orlando Sentinel reports that three people last week were arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless and charged with violating an ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks.
The ordinance requires groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a two-mile radius of City Hall. Arrest papers state that the three helped feed 40 people Wednesday night. The ordinance applies to feedings of more than 25 people. Police waited until everyone was served to make the arrest.
“They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people,” said Coleman. “For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable.”
Orlando Food Not Bombs has been feeding the homeless breakfast on Mondays for several years and dinner on Wednesdays for five years.
The penalty for violating Orlando’s ordinance is 60 days in jail, a $500 fine or both.
To read the full story see: www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/crime/os-homeless-feedings-arrests-20110601,0,7226362.story
NOTE: This morning, Gemma, a volunteer from Orlando Food Not Bombs informs us that: 'since the first three arrests, there has been an additional nine, four at breakfast this week, and then five today at dinner.'
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