City going after homeless feeding programs again | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 12, 2017

City going after homeless feeding programs again

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 1:37 PM

HOMELESS UNWELCOME: The Riverfront  Sculpture Park is cited as a poor place to feed the homeless in an ordinance aimed at severly limiting the practice.
  • HOMELESS UNWELCOME: The Riverfront Sculpture Park is cited as a poor place to feed the homeless in an ordinance aimed at severly limiting the practice.
Advocates for the homeless are busy on social media organizing resistance to a proposed Little Rock ordinance aimed at ending regular feeding programs in parks for the homeless.

The ordinance could come up for a vote Tuesday night. City Director Joan Adcock this week reportedly told the Arkansas Homeless Coalition about the item and said she'd asked for it to be delayed to allow time for comment.

The ordinance, which I've requested from the city, reportedly would prohibit free meals for more than 25 people without a permit and groups could not serve more than two such  meals a year.

Though the ordinance applies to all city parks, it notes that the Riverfront Sculpture Garden is "not conducive to conducting large group feeding events." It excludes  the nearby River Market Pavilions, which regularly host enormous group feeds, often for a fee. The ordinance notes that the city has a program to serve the homeless, a hint of justification for the rule, which would root weekly feeding for the homeless out of city parks. It is an issue that has arisen with some regularity over the years.

The ordinance applies only to free food. A paid event would not be covered. But a big family reunion serving free food would, presumably, also need a permit. (I wonder about War Memorial tailgates, but those may soon be coming to an end anyway.)

Sandra Wilson, who's among those objecting to the proposal on Facebook, posted a copy of the draft ordinance here. She commented:

More damage has been done by housed drunks in the River Market area than by any of the unsheltered in the area.

The primary reason given for this action is that people are afraid of the homeless. I am much more afraid of the Little Rock gangs, (which the city has chosen to rename "groups"). The city leaders really need to rethink their priorities.

...Please, please, please - call our city leaders and tell them that we need to address ways to end homelessness for those who can be housed, but we must also find ways to help those who cannot. Enacting new restrictions to punish people, who are already struggling to survive each day, is not the answer.

City Manager Bruce Moore
reportedly added the item to the agenda. I've asked him for more information. I think City Director Dean Kumpuris, a driving force behind the sculpture garden and all things River Market, is likely a mover in this as well. There are many homeless downtown, where I work. Depriving them of alms won't accomplish much, I don't think, other than making them more desperate.

The homeless apparently are viewed as a pressing problem by the city, one I guess they thought they'd solved by opening the Jericho Way day shelter far removed from most of the city on Springer Boulevard.

The proposal to bar feeding programs aimed at the homeless follows news earlier this year of city efforts to step up eviction of homeless from makeshift camps. It also follows adoption of an ordinance to prevent panhandling along street right of ways. There's been a lot of talk, but less specific action by the City Board on crime here in a city recently ranked as No. 1 in the country for crime, when factoring in both the violent and property crime rates. (Mayor Stodola objected to me later than Little Rock was only No. 8 in violent crime and he thought we ranked high in property crime because we set a lower value threshold for reporting than some cities. Me, too. My car has been rifled so many times I'd never consider reporting it to police.)

Groups fed the homeless weekly under the Broadway Bridge, but that work was suspended for Broadway Bridge construction, which is still in progress. The new idea apparently is that groups could float around the city from park to park, but it's an unrealistic idea for people on foot to hoof out to Southwest Little Rock for lunch one day a week.

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