By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The law banning all outdoor feedings of large numbers of people on City parkland went into effect on Friday.
Mayor Michael Nutter has said the ban will protect the dignity of the homeless, cleanliness of the parks, and eliminate food health concerns. But dozens of opponents testified at a City Council Committee hearing on Thursday, calling the Mayor’s reasons for the ban misleading.
“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.
For years, the group has held feedings for the homeless along the Ben Franklin Parkway.
“The people are the number one resources of this city, not the Barnes Museum,” said Erike Younge, writer at the One Step Away, a newspaper which represents the voice of the city’s homeless. “Feeding people and serving the needs of the people is a fundamental right. And to ban it or to oppose it and not to work to solve this problem is unconstitutional and inhumane.”
Students from The Mathematics Civics and Sciences Charter School testified about their weekly feedings on the Parkway. They said the students raise $500 to $1000 each week for food and toiletries for hundreds of homeless near Ben Franklin Parkway.
“The food we distribute is prepared in our school cafeteria in the same manner and under the same conditions as the food that is served to the students,” said Gregory Dooley. “It is clear to me that the reason that the Mayor has implemented this new directive is that he does not like the way large groups of homeless people and the public looks to visitors and more affluent residents.”
The ban applies to the Fairmount Park system, which includes Love Park and the Ben Franklin Parkway. The Nutter Administration did not attend the hearing.