Texas Liberal

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Mayor Parker And City Of Houston Considering A Third Restriction On The Homeless In Nine Months—Criminalizing Sharing

A broad cross-section of Houston is opposing Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal that would criminalize some acts of sharing food with the homeless in Houston.

Below is a list of groups and community leaders that oppose this measure—

American Rights Association • Casa Juan Diego • Casa de la Fuente • Central Canaan Christian Church • Christ the Servant Lutheran Church • Dominican Sisters of Houston • Ecclesia Church Simple Feast • The Executive Council • Harris County Democratic Socialists • Harris County Green Party • The Harris County Libertarian Party • House of Amos • Houston Area Pastor Council • Houston Food Not Bombs • Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center • Houston Property Rights Association • Houston Tea Party Society • Houston United • Houston Young Republicans • IMPACT: I am the Movement • ISKCON Houston (Hare Krishna Temple) • Japhet Civic Association • Joe Williams Ministries • KHA-Atheists • Last Chance Recovery Center • Last Organic Outpost • Mosque #45, Nation of Islam • Muslims Against Hunger, Disease and Injustice • National Lawyers Guild, Houston Chapter • Noah’s Kitchen • Occupy Houston • Pat Greer’s Kitchen • Pax Christi • Ryon Civic Association • Shape Community Center • Sinfull Bakery • Stand Up for Kids • Texas Public Policy Foundation • Taxpayers  For  Equal  Appraisal • UH Fair Labor Action Committee • UH Students for a Democratic Society • UH Students Against Sexual Harassment and Assault• West Houston Assistance Ministries. • Young Americans for Liberty, HCC • Community Leaders: Deloyd Parker • Minister Robert Muhammad • Reverend Fana, Women’s Resource Center • Duane Bradley, KPFT General manager • Houston City Council Member Helena Brown • Ray Hill • Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Editor and Publisher, Faith That Inspires Action • Dave Atwood, Houston Peace and Justice Center

Here are details of this proposal from the Houston Chronicle

“Mayor Annise Parker is asking the council to adopt rules that would require organizations and people who feed the homeless to register with the city, take a food safety class, prepare the food in certified kitchens, serve only at three public parks, and leave those parks as clean as when they entered them…Councilwoman Helena Brown agreed and praised the speakers from groups who serve meals on the streets, telling them she hoped they’ll “have the freedom to do that and you don’t have to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, I have to go visit City Hall first…”It’s kind of strange and ironic that they want to stop help. We have actually been called to do this, to help those in need,” said Edward J. Sweet Sr., Strait & Narrow’s bishop. “It’s kind of sad that they would want to stop different organizations who are trying to make a change.”…If adopted, the feeding rules would mark the third time in nine months that the council has acted to contain the city’s homelessness problem, which by some estimates has 13,000 people living on the street. Last July, the council expanded the area where it is illegal to sleep on the sidewalk per the city’s so-called civility ordinance. The next month, the council forbade panhandlers from coming within eight feet of patio diners…Parker said in her inaugural address in January that making progress on homelessness would be a priority of her second term. Her administration pitched the rule changes as a way to protect the homeless from food poisoning and allergies, although opponents insist there is no evidence to suggest any health threat from donated food.”

Here is the press release from Mayor Parker’s office on this issue.

With this being the third measure to restrict the actions of the homeless in nine months, it seems that Annise Parker and at least some members of Houston City Council believe that just moving the homeless along will solve the problem.

The Mayor has in the past spoken up against payday loan operators in Houston and for the rights of Downtown office tower janitors to organize.

How can Mayor Parker see a series of punitive measures against the homeless as the right course?

As it stands now, City Council will take up this issue again on Tuesday, March 20. The Council session begins at 2 PM.

Here are some details about speaking at this session—

1) You must call the City Secretary (832) 393 – 1100 to reserve time to speak, ask for one minute, call asap during business hours to reserve your slot. Tell them you want to speak about “criminalizing public service”

2) Leave time to find parking, the session starts at 2. You must arrive with an ID, and be prepared to go through a metal detector.

If you can’t attend the session, call the Mayor and your members of council.

Here is information on contacting Mayor Parker. 

Here is information on contacting members of Houston City Council.

We seem to have plenty of money in Houston to offer tax breaks and incentives for soccer stadiums and so-called arthouse movie theaters. If we have these kinds of funds, than why not more resources to help the homeless—many of them no doubt veterans—towards work and self-sufficiency?

March 19, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,


  1. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Green Party members are united on this issue. We need to help if some one wants to feed the homeless – not make it more difficult.

    Comment by Eric Dick | March 19, 2012

  2. This is really outrageous.

    As though the homeless don’t have it bad enough – and as though those who seek to assist them aren’t a rare enough breed – the mayor seeks to pass a series of unenforceable ordinances whose only impacts will be the further discouragement of assistance and increased opprobrium of the homeless.

    And the idea that she tries to pass it off as a measure designed to protect the homeless from food poisoning and allergies shows a real disconnect. I’ve lived on the street on multiple occasions, and being handed a hot meal by a caring Houstonian is not nearly the worst food alternative.

    In any case, it’s likely to be substantially better than something pulled out of a garbage can.

    But if Helena Brown is our only ally on this issue, we’re screwed.

    Comment by Katy Anders | March 19, 2012

  3. Thanks for both these comments. Let’s hope the Mayor and Council are paying attention to this broad cross-section of Houston.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | March 19, 2012

  4. I’m going to call and email EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, today. Including Ms. Brown, to thank her. It’s unacceptable for us to continue to sign away our freedoms to licensing, permits and tort reform. I have a right to feed a hungry American from the kitchen I cook my own supper in, and so should our churches, civil movements and samaritans.

    Comment by Raissa | March 19, 2012

  5. “But if Helena Brown is our only ally on this issue, we’re screwed.”

    Not at all. You’re defending a libertarian position by noting the unintended consequences of bad legislation. Y’all have more in common than you think.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | March 20, 2012

  6. There is no assumption on any side of the aisle that government always acts for the good. There is no libertarian monopoly on this view The thing about Ms. Brown is that denies her staff at city hall fulltime work and access to City of Houston health insurance. Everyday people need fulltime work and benefits. Libertarians would cede our future to the most powerful big money interests.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | March 21, 2012

  7. “The thing about Ms. Brown is that denies her staff at city hall fulltime work [sic]”

    Is there full-time work for them to do? If you claim so, please identify specific items of work submitted to her office but not completed.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | March 21, 2012

  8. Based on my conversation with Ms. Brown on Monday night, she is hiring more people and giving them less hours and no access to City of Houston health benefits. I did not say that any work is going undone. I said that people need access to fulltime work and health benefits.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | March 21, 2012

  9. @Matt: While I applaud Council member Brown on her stance on THIS issue, the fact is that her opposition probably does not help ensure the defeat of the measure, as she has quickly become a non-factor on the Council due to her opposition of nearly EVERY measure. She votes against bills regardless of whether they are “bad legislation” or not (and will admit as much in open session).

    I had to speak before the Council recently, and the person prepping me emphasized that I should not allow myself to get pulled into a debate on a tangential matter with Council member Brown. “No one listens to her anyway.”

    Based on what I have seen of her in action, that is a fair assessment. She votes alone. Her arguments (which are usually along the lines of “What about Greece? Has anyone thought about Greece?) fail to win over a single other vote.

    She might become more effective at some point in the future. But for the time being, libertarian or not, it’s very likely going to take more than Brown to defeat this measure.

    Comment by Katy Anders | March 21, 2012

  10. ” I did not say that any work is going undone. I said that people need access to fulltime work and health benefits.”

    So there is not enough work to justify full-time employment, but they should be employed full-time anyway? Is that what you’re saying?

    Maybe you’re saying that instead of a larger part-time staff, Brown should have a smaller full-time staff with benefits. How strange that you would demand that city employees be fired.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | March 21, 2012

  11. People merit fulltime work and benefits.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | March 22, 2012

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