Nutter Feeds Us a Load of Crap With New Homeless Rule
By Daniel Rackley
One of the great things about starting the second term of a period in office is that you can afford to enact ridiculous regulations—all the while sparing yourself the burden of worrying about losing your job. Mayor Nutter now has that luxury, and appears to be putting it to use rather quickly.
Nutter has launched what is essentially an attack on Philadelphia’s less fortunate and the people who wish to give them a helping hand. The regulation banning community organizations from feeding the homeless in city parks will be taking effect a month from now. It will be a crime to give a man a sandwich or a cup of soup without a permit from the city. Violators—as painful as it is to call them that—will face two warnings followed by a $150 fine.
Come on now, Mr. Mayor: You can’t possibly be serious about this. What you’re doing may not be illegal but it certainly skims the line of immoral. It’s one thing to tell people where they can and cannot park their cars. But it’s quite another to tell people where they can and cannot eat—especially if they can’t get the food themselves. (P.S. A great many of the city’s homeless are veterans. Such a great way to honor those who served by telling them it is going to be harder for them to get food.)
It may be completely coincidental that the ban is scheduled to go into effect close to the opening of the new Barnes Foundation on the Ben Franklin Parkway. It may also be completely coincidental that the ban is coming before the start of the summer tourism season. But then again, it may not; the timing of is akin to someone getting a less-than-perfect member of the family out of the house before the neighbors arrive for a dinner party.
Let’s not forget to mention that Nutter had no problem with Occupy Philly protesters living at Dilworth Plaza—with no expiration date. To the financial tune of tens of thousands of dollars a day in police overtime.
Sure, you could say that the city is throwing charitable organizations a bone by setting up temporary food distribution locations outside City Hall. But it sounds more like Nutter is trying to corral the city’s homeless into as few spots as possible to risk potential embarrassment.
Unfortunately, he’s already embarrassed himself by announcing this in the first place. The city should not regulate where and how a church group hands out food to the homeless. The shelters are overcrowded, not to mention that at the end of 2011, the Ridge Avenue men’s shelter had to shut its doors. That is why food is being handed out in public to begin with.
Mr. Mayor: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Daniel Rackley is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer.