Free food offered outside hearing on outdoor homeless food ban

With dozens lined up outside the Municipal Services Building, more than 40 homeless advocates and citizens testified at a public hearing Thursday against a proposed city regulation that would ban groups from feeding homeless residents in city parks.

Under the measure, residents and groups could be fined for feeding people in city parks. They would instead be forced to take their programs indoors or on private property.

Another alternative would allow groups to serve meals on the City Hall apron for the next year, but they would to receive approval from two city departments.

The Nutter administration said the regulation is aimed at addressing health concerns and providing dignity to the homeless.

Opponents claim the move would only further harm an already vulnerable population.

“We all know that it sounds good, but it’s just not realistic,” City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell told the city’s Health Board. “We’re not going to resolve the problem without places for people to go.”

Some characterized the regulation as a way to push the homeless off the tourist-friendly Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is set to open two new museums this year.

“We’d like to serve the city notice right now we are not moving,” declared Brian Jenkins, executive director of Chosen 300 Ministries, whose group regularly provides meals on the Parkway.

The regulation was approved last month and is set for final adoption March 22. If approved, the ban would be implemented in mid-April.

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