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A ban on feeding the homeless?
A couple were ordered to stop serving dinners to Houston's street population because they lacked a permit. Have city officials gone too far?
 
While some homeless people take advantage of soup kitchens, one Houston couple tried to deliver warm meals to those in need on the city streets.
While some homeless people take advantage of soup kitchens, one Houston couple tried to deliver warm meals to those in need on the city streets.
Corbis

The video: For 15 months beginning in 2009, a Houston couple served 60 to 120 homeless people dinner every night as part of a Christian-themed program called "Feed a Friend." But three weeks ago, reports the Houston Chronicle, local authorities shut down Bobby and Amanda Herring's operation, saying they lacked the necessary health permits to serve food in public. A spokesman for the city's Health and Human Services Department says such rules are in place because "poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care." (The Herrings had received food donations from local businesses, and volunteers helped prepare the meals.) Now it's unclear whether the couple will be allowed to resume their outreach effort.
The reaction:
"We absolutely need more people like them who care about this vulnerable population," says Coalition for the Homeless President and CEO Connie Boyd, as quoted by the Chronicle. But while the Herrings' "intentions are good," they should respect the law. These ordinances exist to "protect the public." Please—overzealous regulations like these are all about "greed and power,"  says Max Borders in the Washington Examiner,  not "the health and safety of homeless people." Houston's government officials know the Herrings "represent competition for the army of social workers paid by the city"; they shut the couple down to "protect their monopoly," pure and simple. Watch a local news report about the "Feed a Friend" shutdown:

 

 

 

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