Tag Archives: anti-food sharing ordinance

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Houston Homeless Advocates Face Off With Gentrified Snitches Near Downtown As Super Bowl Nears

Houston, TX – In April 2012, the City of Houston, including Mayor Annise Parker passed an anti – food sharing ordinance which made it illegal for any group or individual to feed the homeless or those in need without risking a fine of $500 – $2,000 or even jail. The ordinance states that if you feed more than 5 individuals, you can be subjected to breaking the law. To date, there are groups and homeless advocates who continue to feed the homeless without a permit that’s required to share food. Food Not Bombs Houston has been feeding Houston’s homeless over 23 years. FNB was at the forefront fighting the city over the ordinance and through today is the only food sharing group who doesn’t have to have permission from the city to feed those in need of a meal. FNB is made of up volunteers who are involved in church, activism, homeless advocacy or not involved in anything but just wants to come help. Individuals come from all diversities and share food M, W, F at 8 p.m. and Sun at 7 p.m., rain or shine, holiday or not. FNB refused to adhere to the city ordinance and that is why I’ve enjoyed working with the group for 5 years. The majority of volunteers who are committed truly have a heart for our homeless community. That is what makes this work so well, serving roughly 90 – 120 people. FNB is a vegetarian food sharing and prides itself on serving a healthier alternative. Homeless are not the only ones who come to eat. We’ve had scores of people throughout the years who have homes but don’t have enough food in the home so they come eat with FNB. Even volunteers are encouraged to eat, hence why we call this a food sharing and not a feeding.

Look behind FNB and that’s where you find a brightly lit of building that is Houston City Hall now run by Mayor Sylvester Turner who has also refused to reverse the anti – food sharing ordinance. Back in June 2016, Houston was dealing with a KUSH epidemic that impacted our homeless for months after Houston Police seized 9 tons of KUSH after making a bust the 3rd week of May. Within one week of the bust, Houston’s homeless were heavily impacted by KUSH use that flooded the streets of downtown and local parks around the downtown area. Coincidence? No. However, no police agency or city dept would admit that the flow of KUSH came by the same people who claim to serve and protect. Once the KUSH ran out, so did the issue of the concerns of our homeless who were on it, impacting communities. Mayor Turner used the KUSH matter at part of the reason for not reversing the food sharing ordinance. I’ve heard Turner defend the homeless through words however through action, I’m not seeing the same. December 22, 2016 at two different locations that happened nearly the same time, two homeless downtown hotspots were hit by police. Near Minute Maid Park, Houston Police caved into the homeless camp with city waste, trashing homeless items by the bulk. Several homeless claimed that their personal possessions were trashed without permission. HPD told the homeless to stand back or get arrested. At the Wheeler camp at the same time, Pct 7 police questioned whether I fed the homeless, reminding me it is illegal to feed. Admitting that I fed the homeless and wished they were 5 minutes earlier so I could receive a ticket, it left the officer dumbfounded. (Link below)

https://www.facebook.com/shere.dore.5/videos/1773082762953732/?pnref=story

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HPD and Houston Waste Mgmt show up at a homeless camp near Minute Maid Park Dec 22, 2016, trashing items belonging to the homeless

Mayor Turner had sent out a press release to the public concerning the Wheeler homeless camp. While originally I was glad that items belonging to the homeless were left untouched and that the city focused on the heavy trash under the bridge, I was disappointed by his use of stereotypes in the release. “Drug use” AND “crime” won’t be tolerated. No shit! It shouldn’t be tolerated by any citizen, not just the homeless however this is the continued stigma that city officials continue to push. This could be the words led by Janice Evans (his Communications Director & who hates me with a passion) however the words were approved by the Mayor and to continue to spew rhetoric that condition people to be scared of the homeless and continue this outlook. These are one of the reasons why we are here facing off.

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Part of Mayor Turner’s Press Release concerning Wheeler camps days ago

The entire press release can be linked here: http://www.houstongovnewsroom.org/go/doc/2155/2912434/

Fast forward to the last few months where homeless in the downtown area have been hearing rumors that the city is going to ensure their presence will no longer be during Super Bowl week, has caused homeless advocates and homeless advocate supporters to come out and determine how to handle this matter.  In San Francisco last year during their Super Bowl, it was illegal to be homeless in or around the area where Super Bowl festivities were taking place. In Houston, activists and advocates are refusing to let that happen. The Wheeler homeless camp has become a fighting ground between advocates, police/city of Houston and gentrified snitches. Gentrification has been a problem in Houston for years now. Areas of town where once white money wouldn’t dare drive in the communities are now throwing $200k – millions for gentrified housing in the same areas spoken the worst of over decades like 3rd Ward, Midtown, 4th Ward and so on. Executives who once flooded newly built territories in the suburbs like Sugar Land, Cinco Ranch, all the CY – areas and more have now come back into the city to buy homes near downtown. There’s only one problem… the homeless had that territory first. However, white money continues to build these aluminum boldly painted homes and while some tend to gravitate towards money and the “finer things of life” the truth is, we still have a homeless population that needs to be handled with care. If anything, just to receive a meal or proper healthcare. The gentrified snitches refuse to see it that way. Their idea and concerning revolves around money and their property values. Here are a couple of examples of gentrified snitches:

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These are the typical people who are walking zombies of society. They don’t have a compassionate bone in their body. They believe the world revolves around them only. They also swear they’ve visited with these same homeless several times and that all of them are healthy looking without mental issues so why can’t they go get a job? In reality, these are the kinds who eat up our planet with their inhumane bile and ego’s that stand taller than any of the buildings they work in, they decide to call the police anytime a group of people are seen at the Wheeler camp. The last 3 trips I’ve taken to Wheeler camp in a week has led to being confronted by police 3 times, asking if we’re feeding the homeless. On Sunday afternoon a family in a red truck came out to hand out blankets to the homeless when Pct 7 came out, questioning the family.

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Pct 7 Officer questions a family handing out blankets to the homeless on January 15, 2017

The weekend prior, a gentrified snitch called the police which led to 5 HPD units questioning whether we were feeding the homeless when we were out there to clean up the Wheeler camp.

15974938_1402434459775333_6010010925891356200_o  (Burnell McCray: Photo Credit)

 

A Latino family, children included, had walked through the Wheeler camp to hand out sandwiches, cold drinks and chips. As the family made their way back, a gentrified snitch stopped the family, scolding them in front of their children advising that they are not allowed to feed the homeless. She was not friendly either. She has been seen driving around the Wheeler camp in a newer model Cadillac and is described as an older white haired white woman. While gentrified snitches are attempting to rid the homeless from the area, a group of activists have enacted their official “Homeless Watch” that has begun. These watches will ensure that our homeless are not mistreated because they are homeless whether it is in a gentrified area or areas where Super Bowl festivities will be taking place. Several Houston police officers have been independently telling several homeless men and women that they will not be allowed to be downtown or in areas near NRG Stadium where the Super Bowl will be held next month. Some officers have stated that the homeless are to stay outside a 3 – 5 mile radius of downtown and NRG. Homeless advocates met with a Sgt Herndon under HPD Assist Chief Troy Finner on Jan 5th who confirmed that no orders were set out for Houston officers to relay such information to the homeless. According to HPD, any officer outlining any rules at this time, are making these claims on their own and are not backed by HPD. We’ve been advised that if or when a time comes that rules will come forward, that we will be made aware of these rules so that we can communicate them to the homeless. Houston Officer Cuffy who works at The Beacon, which is a homeless service located in downtown Houston, was filmed telling a homeless man that if the homeless are downtown at the time of Super Bowl, that they would be going to jail. The man tells the officer, “But you cannot arrest someone just because they are homeless”. Cuffy replies, “You’re right, we can’t. But we can find something else to charge you with.” Because the man in the video is the one who brought this to my attention, is why it is important for me to keep him anonymous, for his safety. The video was very real and very chilling which caused me to initiate a homeless watch and bring together others who would assist in watching and defending those who are defenseless. Homeless watches have already begun in different hotspots around downtown, to NRG Stadium, to Hobby Airport. These watches will continue through the night of the Super Bowl so the gentrified snitches should get themselves ready. The homeless may not be able to stand up for themselves but we’ve stepped in and are quite ready to take on any challenges offered. In the end, is this really about keeping law and order concerning the food ordinance? Or is it the City of Houston who is caving to white money? White money being the gentrified areas creating havoc and those complaining because they are worried about Houston’s image during Super Bowl? I do know that each time I go check on the homeless, I nor anyone else, should be subjected to a cops who’ve been tattled to by a bunch of snobs. Since when did Houston because “that city”?  – END

“Until we begin to deal with mental issues surrounding homelessness (i.e. ptsd from becoming and living homeless on top of possibly having other mental disorders) we will continue to have this problem.” – Shere Dore

Burnell McCray has been photo documenting Houston for over 30-years. He’s sharing his album concerning the Wheeler homeless camp up close and personal. You can see the engagement with the homeless and engagement with the powers that be when police arrive.

https://www.facebook.com/burnell.mccray/media_set?set=a.1402425396442906.1073742028.100000263770122&type=3

***I will be addressing City Council Wednesday morning to discuss the continued harassment by these gentrified snitches and to also question actions led by police towards our homeless lately***

 

 

The City of Houston responds to homeless man ticketed for searching for food in a garbage bin

Mr James Kelly was issued a ticket last week for “Disturbing the contents of a garbage can in the downtown business district.” This is a story that has gone viral, worldwide. People as far as the United Kingdom, have expressed their outrage concerning the Houston Police Department and Mayor Parker. The community has rallied together to show support for 44 year old Kelly who has only been in Houston a short time when he was issued a citation. Kelly admits that there has been a few times that an unknown individual buys donuts and intentionally discards them into the garbage bin located at Herman Square Park, which is a public city park near City Hall. Kelly said he has been able to enjoy the donuts a couple of times and that morning, he was rummaging through the bin, in the hopes to find the donuts that this good Samaritan leaves behind. This is when Office Richards approached Kelly and issued the ticket that has the public in shock and upset with the city.

City of Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said he understands the public’s outrage but is defending his officer for issuing the ticket.

“I certainly understand the sentiments, but we still have to protect the homeless and we want them to be safe. There are certainly many places that provide food so people don’t have to dig through a trash receptacle,” said McClelland. He continues to say, “When someone is getting food out of the trash, it could be contaminated. We don’t want anyone to get sick or die.”

However, in early 2012, hundreds of citizens flocked to weekly city council meetings concerning the anti-food sharing ordinance where Mayor Parker and council members argued that they implemented the ordinance for food safety concerns. When Parker and council were asked repeatedly for evidence that would back up their claim, Parker and council admitted that there had been no testing nor reports that homeless fell ill due to inadequate food. If the city hasn’t initiated a test study on homeless who get sick due to tainted food by charitable giving, more than likely the city has not initiated test studies for tainted food left in garbage bins. The city’s excuse that they are concerned that the homeless will get sick or even “die” is just that, an excuse. It is election season where Mayor Parker looks to win her 3rd term. Any comment led by city officials concerning Kelly and this unknown garbage digging ordinance will result in the city acting like they are “concerned” however, actions speak louder than words.

Originally, the city had no comment the day following the public outcry concerning Kelly’s citation. After the city did some digging to try to save their image, they city came back stating that there was a charitable food sharing that was held downtown, around the same time that Kelly had received his ticket. But, how would Kelly have known about this food sharing? In meeting with the Houston Homeless Coalition last year, several advocates attended and asked specific questions concerning information hubs, that would certainly assist the homeless every day from where they can receive medical help, food, showers, shelters, housing but to date, the city has yet to set up these hubs in public places nor have they made these items available to homeless advocates and food sharing charities. How would Kelly have known that there was a food sharing in downtown Houston since these hubs have been denied to all involved? You would think that if Mayor Parker and the city leaders truly cared for the homeless, they would be working overtime to see that their needs are met in ALL WAYS. All these avenues have been brought up to the city in assisting the homeless and to date, Mayor Parker and the city continues to ignore advocates.

Days following the Kelly citation, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has stepped in and made a public statement.

Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said tickets for violations of the ordinance are written only in response to complaints that garbage has been removed and left outside of trash containers.

“I know on the face of it, it sounds very cruel,” the union leader said, stressing that most police officers would not cite someone for simply taking food from a dumpster.

“It’s not officers being inhumane,” Hunt said. “It’s police officers responding to citizens’ complaints about someone removing garbage from their garbage can, and leaving it on the ground. It’s creating a mess.”

It seems that HPD and the Union is working feverishly to clear themselves of their tarnished image. Citizens who may not be involved in activism or advocating for the less fortunate, may not be aware that there are already separate ordinances in place for the concern listed by Ray Hunt. Had Kelly littered after rummaging through the garbage bin, wouldn’t the citation indicate “littering” as well? Kelly has strongly implied that he never let a piece of garbage touch the ground and that he was merely sifting the contents when Officer Richards approached him. The citation was issued at 9:30 a.m. Kelly was located at a public park. It is safe to say that several people tend to leave garbage laying around the park area. In fact, littering was never the concern in this particular case. However, each time the city addresses the homeless, their top complaints are generally food safety, homeless getting sick and littering. For days, littering has not been a topic until Hunt steps in with a rebuttal to save HPD’s image while defaming Kelly’s.

The attack on the homeless is obvious. From anti-food sharing to citations issued to homeless who are simply looking for food. It seems as if Mayor Parker is not a fan of Houston’s homeless along with council members who stand by her and the Houston Police Department. This citation has citizens furious for two reasons: Bullying the homeless is a “no-no” and the citizens have never heard of the citation until Kelly’s story went viral. HPD and the City of Houston have both indicated that this ordinance is specific to the downtown business district which seems to include garbage bins in public parks, garbage bins and public parks which you and I, the tax payer, pays for.

A spokesman for the Houston Police Department said its officers issue several citations for violations of the ordinance on a weekly basis, while Gwendolyn Goins, spokeswoman for the city municipal courts, said city prosecutors estimate such CITATIONS ARE WRITTEN LESS THAN ONCE A MONTH. As it seems again, HPD is once again, twisting the truth.

Could Officer Richard’s issued a warning to Kelly and let him on his way? Yes. Officer Richard’s did not and since then, the city has been scrambling to point fingers on everyone but themselves. It is time that citizens recognize that fear breeds ignorance. For some reason, the city fears these homeless men and women who have fallen on unfortunate circumstances. This is why the city is working to safeguard themselves and the downtown district from the homeless. These are members of society left out in the cold streets in a city operated by leaders who refuse to appropriately handle their circumstances and would rather smoke them out of the downtown region by favoring the builders and corporate interest rather than working for the citizens of Houston in helping the homeless humanely. This is why 34,000 signatures petitioning the anti-food sharing ordinance went ignored by Mayor Parker. Each voting citizen should be asking themselves right about now, “Should I be voting for a Mayor a 3rd term who has blatantly attacked the homeless in this manner?” It is one very serious question each should be asking during election season. If Mayor Parker is capable of bullying a defenseless group, then she is capable of doing just about anything. It is like the bully who picks on the student in school who is bound to a wheelchair, considered special ed (by district standards) and cannot defend him/herself. Mayor Parker has proven to be no different.

Kelly’s court date is next month and is represented by civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen who has also been vocal in defending Houston’s homeless and fighting the anti-food sharing ordinance. I will continue to keep you posted as the story continues.