Mayor Nutter announces ban on feeding homeless outdoors

Starting next month, it will be illegal to feed homeless people in city parks, under a controversial plan announced by Mayor Michael Nutter yesterday.

Nutter said the plan is intended to increase the health, safety and dignity of the city’s most vulnerable population. Once the new regulation takes affect, groups who feed the homeless outside will be permitted to do so outside City Hall, but they must register. Violators will be given two warnings, but a third infraction will come with a $150 fine.

“Providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night,” Nutter said.

While some homeless advocates voiced support for the plan, others say it will further harm the indigent and push them into the shadows.

“You have to put new systems in place,” said Christine Vaganos, a Drexel grad student who has volunteered at city shelters. “I don’t believe they have the capacity for every homeless person.”

William Wascon has been sleeping out near LOVE Park since losing his apartment recently. He decried the way the city currently treats homeless and said the new regulation does not take into some people’s lack of mobility and skepticism about government.

“I got bad legs, sometimes I can’t make it [to a shelter or church],” he said.

For some time, charitable groups have provided meals for homeless people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway or at Love Park weekly. Nutter’s office denied speculation that the move was done to prepare for the opening of a Barnes Museum and Rodin Museum on the Parkway later this year.

“We have wrestled with this for some years and it just so happens it’s not linked to the opening of a particular place on the Parkway,” Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald said.

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