After Initial Support, Project HOME Criticizes Homeless Feeding Ban
In an open letter to Mayor Michael Nutter, Project HOME co-founder Sister Mary Scuillon says she cannot support the city’s new homeless feeding ban, which goes into effect today. The announcement is a break with the charity’s previous statements, as Scullion was an initial tentative backer of the plan during Nutter’s initial announcement.
“We have been in considerable dialogue with many parties, and those of varied perspectives on the issue, particularly because I publicly stated provisional support for what positive progress could come out of this policy,” reads the letter, making note of the controversy the ban has sparked, as well as the belief that Nutter’s intentions are likely wholesome.
The Mayor’s feeding ban was adopted after Health Commissioner Don Schwarz said it was impossible to tell if the food served to the homeless during last fall’s Occupy Philadelphia protests was safe to eat. Since the policy’s announcement, there has been a ton of flack laid upon the Administration. Many believe the ban is being put into place to coincide with the opening of the Barnes Museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway, to keep the homeless away. The Administration has denied this.
Nutter has responded to some of the heat laid upon him for the plan. He responded to WHYY’s Mary Moss Coane regarding the policy during a March interview saying, “There’s been a fair amount of…misinformation about what people have heard vs. what I actually said,” before noting the process to gain a feeding permit would not be hard, and his plan would focus on what the administration believes is a much-needed indoor feeding system.
Project HOME seems to agree with that, which is why they’ve supported the mayor until now.
“I joined you in your announcement of this policy because we believe that you want to find a resolution to the long-standing controversy of Parkway feeding that would in fact help us as a City make progress in meeting the needs of those who are on the streets,” continues Scullion in the letter. “And we continue to support the City’s commitment to establishing indoor facilities with healthy meals in a dignified setting, and with access to services that meet the broader needs of those who are homeless. We also support the City’s commitment to a Commission of stakeholders to develop long-term solutions to the needs of those who are hungry, including those who are in shelter or homeless on the streets.”
The problem: “The proposed service-enriched dining centers” the city promised aren’t in place, yet. And without that, according to Scullion, today’s ban is nakedly one-sided: “So a June 1st initiation of the policy amounts to a ban on street feeding but does not provide the additional availability of indoor meals.” She concludes, asking the mayor to rethink the enforcement of such a ban until the indoor facilities are ready.
Project HOME is not alone. Dozens of people, including homeless advocates, testified before City Council yesterday, regarding the ban.
“These regulations are clearly designated not with the intent of protecting the health and dignity of the homeless, but are designed to tuck the homeless in a corner and pretend that the problem does not exist in our city,” said Reverend Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries.
You can read the entire Project HOME letter here.