By Mike Dunn and Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has announced a ban on the feeding of large numbers of homeless and hungry people at sites on and near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Mayor Nutter is imposing the ban on all outdoor feedings of large numbers of people on city parkland, including Love Park and the Ben Franklin Parkway, where it is not uncommon for outreach groups to offer free food.
Nutter says the feedings lack both sanitary conditions and dignity.
“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.
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The city’s leading homeless advocate, Project Home’s Sister Mary Scullion, voiced tentative support for the mayor’s announcement. She said the mayor is “between a rock and a hard place” on the issue of outdoor feedings.
“I really want to thank the mayor for this courageous … this is not an easy position. But I do think it’s a great opportunity,” Scullion said.
Among the groups unhappy with the mayor’s announcement is Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries, a homeless outreach group that does both indoor and outdoor feedings.
“The fact that city of Philadelphia is saying now that the homeless don’t have the right to eat on the Ben Franklin Parkway or eat around Center City is a clear violation of civil rights,” Jenkins explained. “It says that people that have … can eat in a certain place. But people that have not, can’t.”
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Nutter’s aides will work with the homeless groups to encourage more indoor feedings.
In the meantime, the groups will be allowed to offer food on the north apron of City Hall, provided they register with the city.
The ban on parkland feedings takes effect in 30 days. Groups that violate the outdoor feeding ban would face two warnings and then a nominal $150 fine.
Nutter says large family gatherings in the park are not affected by the ban.