As a Christian minister, Pastor Brian Jenkins is familiar with the concept of civil disobedience. It was an idea demonstrated by the apostle Paul and later by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In light of the city’s plan to ban feeding the homeless and hungry across much of the city, Jenkins is prepared to be a rebel with a cause. He calls the new regulations discriminatory against minorities — who constitute much of the homeless population — and the disabled.
“There are a lot of physically and mentally disabled folks who rely on these meals,” said Jenkins, founder of Chosen 300 Ministries. “Some people cannot travel to that [City Hall] apron.”
One regulation would prohibit feeding groups of three or more in city parks, while another would require groups who provide meals on other public property to have permits and hand-washing stations. Violators would be warned twice and then fined $150.
Jenkins and his wife began providing their weekly meals in 1996 at 16th and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. His treats evolved from bagged lunches to full meals, which is how he became affectionately known as “Chicken Man.”
While Philadelphia is not the first city to place restrictions on outdoor feeding, he complained that the city is not addressing the problem but simply punishing those trying to help, which he believes will ultimately lead to more crime in Center City and aggressive panhandling.
Adam Bruckner, who hands out meals and helps homeless residents get identification across from the Family Court building, is not as defiant as Jenkins. He said he may stop feeding if the new regulations take effect.
“I feel like it’s a pinch for me,” said Bruckner, 36. “We speak about doing the right thing. The last thing that I want to do is be [confrontational] with a Philadelphia police officer.”