The Los Angeles Dream Center is currently gathering signatures to object to a possible ban on publicly feeding the city's homeless, with an online petition directed at the city's mayor.
City councilman Tom LaBonge introduced a motion recently that has sparked controversy and initiated conversation about the lack of solutions for L.A.'s homeless population. If passed, the bill would prohibit organizations from providing outdoor food services to the needy because such actions get in the public's right of way and sometimes they have "negative impacts to the surrounding community," according to LaBonge's official motion document.
"If feeding were to be banned or restricted, it would cut off our lifeline to not only feed the homeless but families," said Pastor Matthew Barnett to The Christian Post on Thursday. "Tens of thousands of people would be impacted. Mobile trucks are the only way to reach people. We've been doing this for nearly twenty years. Mobile outreach meets people in their world and that's where the impacts are made."
The ministry, which serves as a round-the-clock sanctuary for homeless families, addicts, abused women and children and victims of human trafficking through their various services, is making the public stand against the possible ban in an effort to avoid L.A. joining the roster of other cities throughout the country that have adopted similar measures.
"These laws are often quietly pushed through councils without resistance. One day people wake up and are told they cannot feed," said Barnett.
Across the country, Jerry Jones, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless based in Washington, D.C., also weighed in on the issue.
"It's mean-spirited to deny hungry people food and wrong for the city council to ban charitable acts," said Jones to CP. "If volunteers want to feed homeless people, the city shouldn't be throwing up roadblocks, they should be thanking them."
Although LaBonge acknowledges that the services rendered to the homeless by organizations like the Dream Center are invaluable, the councilman argues that when these acts take place, long lines of homeless individuals form outside and cross into nearby neighborhoods, which is where the problem lies, he says.
"Due to the large demand to feed those in need, these activities frequently spill out onto the sidewalk and street, creating numerous public safety and public health concerns," writes LaBonge in his motion, filed on September 17. "Additionally, concentrations of people, lack of ADA accessibility and blocking of streets and sidewalks cause significant public safety problems. City Departments should come together to determine a solution that addresses non-commercial feeding in the public rights of way."
According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, there are nearly 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, which ranks the city as the second metropolis with the highest rates of homelessness following New York City. Among the most infamous locations in L.A. where the homeless gather is Skid Row, where business owners and residents are placing pressure on their local government for solutions.
Ministry leaders and volunteers at the Dream Center provide over 36,000 hot meals and groceries to 40,000 homeless or food insecure people who lack sufficient economic access to eat each month. The ministry also serves food through food trucks throughout nearly 30 sites each week.
"If the government isn't feeding the hungry, and won't allow nonprofit organizations, churches, and compassionate individuals to fill in the gap, what hope do these people have to survive in our city?" writes the Dream Center in its online petition.
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition has nearly 1,700 supporting signatures. Ministry leaders also took to their social media outlets to urge their followers to sign the petition.
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