NOTES BY NORSE: Santa Cruz’s Food Not Bombs has expanded its feeding operations to twice weekly–4 PM Saturday and Sunday near the Main Post Office downtown. So far, earlier attempts to interfere with Food Not Bombs, that has sought refuge under the eaves of the federal post office when the rains hit, have not recurred. City bureaucrat Julie Hendee was pressuring one of the Church groups that feeds Thursday afternoons downtown in front of Forever 21 at Pacific and Soquel to move indoors because of “litter”–some months back during the Save the Shrinking Sidewalks protests. No one has ever gotten a littering ticket from that group as far as I know.
Unleashed in this brutal campaign have been First Alarm security thugs, the yellowjacked “snitch and smile” Hosts, and, of course, the ever-ready SCPD–with eager heavies like CSO Barnett specifically harassing outspoken street vendors like Scarfseller Kate Winzell–now facing three citations and a total of $600 in fines for (a) allegedly falling asleep in her vehicle at night, (b)selling scarfs one day before she acquired her business license, and (c) supposedly failing to move every hour to a spot 100′ away under the City’s “Morgani Be Gone!” Move-Along law.
South Carolina city requires fees and permits to feed the homeless
February 25, 2014 16:40
Reuters / Mike Blake
After more than a decade of feeding the homeless in Columbia, South Carolina, one group’s tradition could be in danger of ending as the city begins enforcing rules to limit the gathering of large groups in public parks.
As of February 15, Columbia began requiring any group of 25 people or more to pay for and obtain a permit 15 days in advance if they wished to use the city’s parks for an event. This requirement was extended even to non-profit groups and charities, though their fees would be smaller.
The problem for one of the most well-known groups that feeds the homeless, however, is that it doesn’t even qualify as a charity. For about 12 years, Food Not Bombs has been gathering in a Columbia park to share meals with those less fortunate. That tradition is in jeopardy, according to organizer Judith Turnipseed, since the new policy would force the group to pay at least $120 per week in order to meet.
“We have no formal organization,” Turnipseed told the weekly South Carolina newspaper Free Times. “We don’t have a 501(c)(3). We’re just a group of people who come to the park and bring food and share it with anyone who comes. That includes people who are homeless, and people who have a home but are hungry. It’s a people’s picnic.”
What’s more, efforts by Food Not Bombs to join a new shelter organized by Christ Central Ministries have ended in failure as well, leaving the group to consider taking legal action against the city in order to maintain its ability to gather in the parks.
The whole situation is reminiscent of another that’s taking place in Washington state, where a church group called Crazy Faith Ministries believes it’s being targeted for its efforts to feed the homeless population in Olympia. As RT reported last year, the mission gathers in empty lots to feed the hungry, but the city wants them to move due to complaints by business owners.
Back in Columbia, Jeff Caton of the Parks and Recreation Department said that while the city’s homeless problem did create momentum for the new policies, they are intended to target large groups in general, not those dedicated to serving the poor and the hungry.
“We do have groups that come to our facilities without notice, bring large groups,” Caton said to Free Times. “When that happens, he says, sometimes there aren’t enough trash cans for the group, or the bathrooms aren’t ready, and it can hurt everyone’s park experience.”
Caton doesn’t think he’ll have to deny many permits, but the ordinance does allow the department to turn away groups or activities that “will unreasonably interfere with or detract from the enjoyment” of the park or other facilities.
These events began unfolding in 2013, when Columbia sought new ways to keep the homeless population from moving about the city. One plan that’s been enacted involved establishing a new shelter away from popular areas and directing charities such as Christ Central Ministries to set up shop there. The law has been criticized by some, such as the South Carolina chapter of the American Civil liberties Union, for essentially exiling the homeless population.
“The underlying design is that they want the homeless not to be visible in downtown Columbia,” said Susan Dunn of the ACLU to Think Progress last year. “You can shuttle them somewhere or you can go to jail. That’s, in fact, an abuse of power.”
Columbia, South Carolina Enacts Controversial Measure Against People Helping Homeless
The Huffington Post | by Robbie Couch
Posted: 02/27/2014 9:33 am EST Updated: 02/27/2014 11:59 am EST
As of Feb. 15, the city started requiring groups of 25 people or more to purchase a permit that allows them to utilize the city’s parks, the Free Times reported. For one community group that has been feeding the city’s homeless for more than a decade, the new policy spells trouble.
“We have no formal organization,” Judith Turnipseed, an organizer for Food Not Bombs, told the Free Times. “We don’t have a 501(c)(3). We’re just a group of people who come to the park and bring food and share it with anyone who comes. That includes people who are homeless, [and] people who have a home but are hungry.”
Because Food Not Bombs draws more than 25 people to a public space in its attempts to feed the hungry, the city would require them to request the permit 15 days before each communal meal, and pay at least $120.
The city said the ordinance wasn’t intended to target specific organizations, but to better public spaces for everyone in Columbia.
“We do have groups that come to our facilities without notice,” Jeff Caton, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said to the Free Times. “Sometimes there aren’t enough trash cans for the group, or the bathrooms aren’t ready, and it can hurt everyone’s park experience.”
But rather than give up on feeding the city’s most vulnerable, the organizers of Food Not Bombs are considering pursuing legal action against the city, according to Judith’s husband, Tom Turnipseed.
“We’re the kind of folks who want to get along and work things out and negotiate, [but] it might have to come to going to court,” he told the Free Times.
Columbia, which some say has become a “magnet for homeless people,” has taken controversial steps against the homeless before.
A measure was passed last August that criminalized homelessness, giving offenders the options to either relocate to a “far-away shelter” or go to jail, according to Think Progress. After public outcry, the city reversed the policy.
Other cities across the country have adopted similar anti-homeless initiatives. Earlier this month, New York City officials began cracking down on homeless people seeking shelter from the winter weather in the city’s subway system, according to DNAinfo.com. And angry activists in Portland, Ore., recently staged protests over what they called the mistreatment of homeless people in their city.
Homeless Feeding Crackdown: City to Require Permits, Fees for Large Groups Using Parks
|Photo by Sean Rayford|
The City of Columbia is cracking down on large groups of people gathering in city parks without a permit — an effort, in part, to control the feeding of homeless people.
Beginning Feb. 15, the city will begin enforcing its existing park permit ordinance. Any group of 25 or more people that holds an event or activity at a city park will need to file an application for a permit at least 15 days in advance. Fees for permits vary according to the park, the nature of the activity and the group hosting it.
The policy move has been in the works since last fall, when Columbia City Council adopted a set of measures to deal with homelessness. Among them: trying to coordinate the many groups who feed the homeless across the city, moving most meals to the city’s Calhoun Street emergency shelter and thereby reducing homeless people’s daily migrations around the city.
Among the groups that feed the homeless in city parks, the most well known is probably Food Not Bombs. The Columbia chapter has been meeting every Sunday at Finlay Park for 12 years to share food.
Applying for a permit isn’t a problem, says Judith Turnipseed, who helps organize Food Not Bombs. The problem is the fees. While there are reduced fees for nonprofits, Food Not Bombs doesn’t actually fall in that category.
“We have no formal organization,” Turnipseed says. “We don’t have a 501(c)(3). We’re just a group of people who come to the park and bring food and share it with anyone who comes. That includes people who are homeless, [and] people who have a home but are hungry. It’s a people’s picnic.”
According to her reading of the fee ordinance, Food Not Bombs would have to pay at least $120 per week, Turnipseed says. The group has been negotiating with city staff to try to keep the fees down, she says — and the group’s track record of cleaning up after itself should help. But the ordinance isn’t right, she says.
“We’re still talking to them and we’re still talking to each other. We haven’t come to a decision about what we’re going to do yet. … People say ‘Just move,’ but that’s kind of folding your tent and running,” she says.
Legal action is a possibility, says Tom Turnipseed, Judith’s husband.
“We’re the kind of folks who want to get along and work things out and negotiate, [but] it might have to come to going to court,” Tom Turnipseed says.
Many of these tensions date to mid-2013, when Columbia City Councilman Cameron Runyan rolled out a plan to address homelessness that included, among other ideas, an out-of-town homeless rehabilitation center called The Retreat and strict enforcement of city loitering laws and other ordinances. The Turnipseeds and other citizens protested the plans, writing letters, marching down Main Street and wearing patches with an “H” on them. The city never adopted all Runyan’s proposals, but Council did agree on a series of steps to address homelessness.
The city’s crackdown on park activities was delayed for several months while Christ Central Ministries, which the city has contracted to run its emergency shelter, got a feeding program up and running at the shelter on Calhoun Street.
Rev. Jimmy Jones, who runs Christ Central Ministries, says 71 churches and businesses have chipped in to help feed the homeless so far since the shelter opened for the season in September.
But not everyone’s been able to participate.
Judith Turnipseed says she called Jones last fall to ask what night of the week Food Not Bombs could feed people at the shelter, as they’d done in years past in addition to their Sunday park feedings.
“He said ‘We don’t need you and we don’t want you,’” Turnipseed says.
Jones confirms that account to Free Times. He told the Turnipseeds to go volunteer at Transitions or some other homeless service provider.
“The whole reason is if you’re going to stir up the homeless, don’t come down here,” Jones says.
Meanwhile, city staffers have been posting signs in parks to alert people to the coming policy change.
While the homeless issue was the catalyst for the city beginning to enforce the ordinance, there is actually a broader issue that needs addressing, says Jeff Caton, director of parks and recreation for the city.
“We do have groups that come to our facilities without notice, bring large groups,” Caton says. When that happens, he says, sometimes there aren’t enough trash cans for the group, or the bathrooms aren’t ready, and it can hurt everyone’s park experience.
The park ordinance allows the city to deny permits to groups for a variety of reasons, including if the activity “will unreasonably interfere with or detract from the enjoyment of the areas of the park or recreational facility for other members of the public.”
But Caton says he hopes he won’t have to deny anyone a permit.
“We’re hopeful that everyone complies and everyone does their part to take care of the property,” he says. “We hope everything runs smoothly.”
Still, this is new territory for his staff, he admits: They’re used to providing services, not enforcing city laws.
“That’s kind of a new thing for us, because we don’t tend to be in the enforcement arena,” he says.