Recently I was garden shopping with a friend intent on a Spring spiffing up of her backyard and while helping her load the car, I noticed all of these random bags. She revealed that they were her homeless bags. The befuddled expression on my face must have spoken volumes because she quickly explained that she fills extra bags lying around the house with toiletries and high-protein snack items to give to homeless people.
You might have seen them on Facebook or Pinterest as blessing bags. You might also have seen an attempt to criticize those who choose to pass out such bags in lieu of money to those in need. Some believe that charitable giving in the form of a blessing bag is an outlet of privilege, allowing the “haves” a way to alleviate guilt by being nice to the “have nots” without encouraging perceived ills gained by a mere monetary donation. You know, give bums money and they will spend it on booze or drugs not food or shelter.
In Houston, I say pass them out. It’s a great idea no matter the motive. Let the giver decide how to share his or her blessing without demonizing the intention. It’s more than most do at interstate feeder roads where most of the begging occurs. It’s definitely an alternative to city council leaders and the moral dilemma they forced on our community. Feed the homeless, especially when it comes to feeding more than five of them at once, and you are committing a crime.
Our previous Mayor Annise Parker (2010 – 2016) was famous for her ordinances meant to bypass voters in order to force a city-wide agenda. One decreed in 2012 targeted those feeding the homeless, making it illegal to do so unless certified and regulated under Houston’s department of Health and Human Services, aptly named The City of Houston Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider Program.
Like most government takeovers, this ordinance hasn’t worked as well as it should. Much like the Affordable Care Act which is not actually affordable or offers quality care, the Houston Feeding Ordinance doesn’t feed too many in need. Instead of encouraging helping the homeless and charitable giving, the opposite has happened in Houston, leading many to question the original purpose of the law and the actual effect it has had on the community.
In fact one Houston man has declared his intent to sue for the right to feed the city’s homeless. When previous attempts to repeal the ordinance failed, Phillip Bryant decided to put the issue in God’s hands. His lawsuit claims the ordinance denies his religious freedom:
The lawsuit argues that Bryant’s religious right to share food and water with the homeless are being infringed upon. He claims he simply wants to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and he never knows when he might feel compelled to help those in need.
“It’s not safety. It’s not a safety issue, I’ve yet to have one person come to me with food poisoning. It’s just really, downtown district just does not want to see the homeless community at this point,” Shere Dore with Homeless Advocate Program Houston said.
Mayor Parker, a progressive who also tried to force her HERO ordinance, the trans-potty discrimination law, ruled Houston much like Obama tried to run the country. Ideology first not practical solutions to modern-day problems. In Parker’s city, it looked bad to have so many homeless hanging around. Her solution was to restrict feeding them. It’s been kind of like the stray cat theory – if you don’t feed them, they will move elsewhere. It apparently hasn’t worked.
So our new Mayor Sylvester Turner has a new idea to deal with the homeless: Turner announced a plan Thursday to create more housing through local organizations and even to create camps around the city. He said, “The city is pursuing creation of one or more secure and professionally managed covered outdoor spaces with restroom facilities for up to 75 individuals could stay temporarily.”
Hmmmm . . . I can visualize the homeless camps now. It will most certainly be in a section of Houston far removed from the path our elites travel. If they don’t see the problem, it doesn’t exist right? Perhaps we should go back and look at how we helped our homeless community in the past. It typically fell on non-profits and churches. Let’s face it, homelessness has been around forever and will continue to be an aspect of all communities. Let those devoted to charitable acts spread their ministry as they see fit and stop pretending we can make the homeless disappear.