In the names of public health and public safety, municipalities continue to crack down on charities that feed the homeless. At the same time, a recent survey has found that cites are seeing a sharp rise in demand for emergency food.
The issue has largely become a debate about how charities are hurting local businesses and causing public sanitation and disturbance problems. Nevertheless, there seems to be a rather glaring rise in poverty and need for assistance, as found in a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors study.
According to Yahoo News, “a survey of 25 American cities, including many of the nation’s largest, showed yearly increases in food aid and homelessness. The cities, located throughout 18 states, saw requests for emergency food aid rise by an average of 7 percent compared with the previous period a year earlier…”
Among some of the highest percentages in demographics of the survey, it was found that unemployment was the largest contributor to these statistics. In addition, the study found that high percentages of these requests came from the elderly, veterans and the homeless. Almost one-third of these requests came from those who suffer from mental illness.
A War on Charity
The controversy has heightened in recent years, as cities are cracking down on charities that publicly feed the homeless. In Dauphin County, Pa., a religious organization called Isaiah 61 has been banned from using a parking lot that is owned by the county.
Isaiah 61 had been using the parking lot for five years as a place where they could provide hot meals to local homeless people. In response to complaints, the county posted “No Loitering” signs. Isaiah 61 says that this move “violates the group’s freedom of religion,” as reported by Jeff Frantz from PennLive.com.
In December 2013, another story from Bret Wilkins of Digital Journal reported on a controversial homeless feeding ban in St. Louis, and that the city is sticking to its guns, despite public outcry. It dealt with Churches on the Streets, a program that proved home-cooked meals and sermons to the city’s homeless.
Government to the Rescue?
City governments who decide to implement these bans have a rationale for doing so. The government naturally wants to have a say, especially when it comes to taking care of impoverished citizens. So, how are local government faring in their objective? The Yahoo News article finds an interesting answer in its recent survey. It says that a cut in SNAP benefits, formerly known as the food-stamp program, was also causing a decrease in food available for the needy. This is turn forces them to turn to organizations that are less prepared to face this demand.
So it seems that the government has been cutting food assistance, forcing the homeless to turn to charitable organizations like Isaiah 61 and Churches on the Street.
Though it can be argued that local governments never said that these charities weren’t allowed to practice their faith and feed the impoverished, they simply say that these charities need to have permits, inspections and can’t use public property. Another recurring theme found in these reports is that local governments are “burdening’” these operations to the point of infeasibility.
Simply put, the government isn’t completely banning charities from feeding the homeless, and this does seem to be a far cry from attacking religious freedom as a whole. However, this appears to be more of a classic government control and incompetence issue.
Obviously, the government does not want to make things easy for charities, and while they aren’t technically banning them from feeding the homeless, they are making it a logistical impossibility. Their rationale may be that they feel better able to deal with the homeless than churches and charities. Sure they are.
At the same time, we have found that government food assistance has taken a nosedive, driving the homeless towards charities that are now no longer able to help them. This is what happens when constitutional freedom and morality are abandoned by a control-obsessed government.
Sadly, the ones who stand to lose the most are the homeless.