Friday, May 19, 2017

A plea for the hungry and a threat for action

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 10:15 AM

Robert Johnston
, the former legislator who's long been active in programs to feed homeless people in Little Rock, shares a letter he's written city officials about the recently delayed ordinance aimed at shutting down regular feeding programs in city parks. The ordinance originally would have limited feeding of large groups to twice a year per park, with a fee. Johnston's letter follows:

‘Feed the Hungry’ is a volunteer organization that has fed the homeless and hungry a hot breakfast for 11 years, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, holidays included.

We now feed at Salvation Army [1111 W. Markham St.] – 80-120 most mornings/ five days a week. Stewpot [at First Presbyterian Church, 8th and Scott; illustrated in video above] feeds lunch five days a week, but takes many holidays off. There are many meals beyond that, some of which other groups have been filling… and should be encouraged, as well as permitted to continue [and start]

Feed the Hungry has fed in a storefront near the Train Station, under the Broadway Bridge (in the open and in a FEMA trailer), in the lobby of City Hall, in the east portico of City Hall, in the garage of City Hall, and at Second Baptist and First Presbyterian.

If the Salvation Army were to reduce cooperation we would be back feeding in a park or some other public place. We have major participation from 5 churches and would claim a religious exemption from any city rules.

The original city ordinance was inhumane and stupid. It might as well have been a flashing neon billboard "We don’t want scruffy homeless and their do-good helpers in our lovely city parks." The City of Little Rock has been hard-hearted [on and off] for 20 years.

With some appropriate changes the proposed rule would be OK: a small deposit to assure cleaning up after feeding, a limit of 100 or so to be fed, no more than one day a week/ 52 weeks a year per group.

Other than that - the reputation of the City will suffer and economic development will take a hit. Other than that and ‘Feed the Hungry ‘ will join other groups in feeding the homeless in the lobby or front porch of City Hall or on the steps of Robinson Auditorium… or some other public venue
The City Board delayed consideration of the ordinance this week so a study committee could be put together on homeless feeding issues. The ordinance had been amended by then to allow up to six feedings per park per year and to reduce the permit fee.

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