'Liberal' California City Considers Banning People Feeding Homeless in Public
Lancaster mulls ban for public streets, sidewalks, parking lots, city-owned property
A city in "liberal" California is considering a controversial measure that would ban people from feeding homeless people in certain public places.
If passed, handing out food in Lancaster, CA would be banned on sidewalks, public streets, parking lots, public parks, and other city-owned property.
Advocates of the measure claim the move will cut down on trash and public nuisance.
Critics argue that it will make it harder to feed the homeless and could even put their lives in jeopardy, however.
Lancaster's Mayor Rex Parris, a key supporter in the move, faced off with homeless advocates in a contentious meeting on Tuesday night.
At times, the meeting broke down into shouting matches.
"A lot of people would come to eat, the people feeding them would leave and the mess would be left behind," Parris said.
"We're talking about people defecating in the entryways of the business.
"It became a public health problem."
Homeless advocates claim the proposed fees and fines would dramatically scale back on volunteers who have helped feed the homeless in the past.
"Don't penalize my people for going to feed people because we don't follow your organization or rules," one advocate said.
His comments were met with applause during the meeting.
Another homeless advocate told the mayor and other city leaders that the ban is "not only punitive against the hungry but it's even punitive against the people trying to help the homeless."
Michael Ouimet, a Navy veteran who has been homeless for 11 years, told ABC7 that meals are already difficult to find if you're living on the streets and that the proposed measure could make it impossible.
"You never really know where you're going to get your next meal from," he said.
Following the hearing, city officials set up a committee to work with nonprofits to study the issue.
It is unclear how long the "study" would last or how much it would cost.
A quarter of the nation's homeless people live in California.
Smaller cities and towns across the state are now also seeing an uptick in their homeless population too.