Tag Archives: Randall Kallinen

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.

Homeless war veteran issued a citation for looking for food in a garbage can

“What?!?!” “How did that happen?” “Is that even a law?” “I have never heard of that ordinance!”

These were the responses I heard when I expressed my irate feelings over a local homeless war veteran, James Kelly, who was issued a citation for “dumpster diving” in downtown Houston days ago. As a volunteer of Food Not Bombs and HAP (Houston Advocate Program) my main interest consist of assisting the homeless in utilizing coats, blankets, toiletries and assisting individuals in cutting through the red tape they are often faced with concerning their benefits and more. Because these individuals are homeless, the city and county have a tendency to look down upon these men and women who just need a little help.

In working with Food Not Bombs, I met Mr. Kelly (who calls himself “Bear”) a while back. The first thought when you interact with him: he was a big teddy bear. He is well spoken, cares deeply for others and is highly intelligent. So it was to my surprise when I had arrived at the food sharing Friday night when Bear approached me with a pink piece of paper in his hand. He quietly asked if he could speak to me. We shuffled off to a remote area when Bear opened up a piece of paper, allowing me to read the text. I was appalled when I read the description, “DISTURBING THE CONTENTS OF A GARBAGE CAN IN THE DOWNTOWN CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT.”

Bear stated that there is an individual who purchases donuts and will intentionally discard a bag of donuts for the homeless to purposely find and eat. A gesture most likely done because the City of Houston has made it illegal for any individual or group to feed more than 5-people on public space without being fined up to $2,000 or could be arrested if one failed to comply. Mayor Parker and several council members passed an ordinance April 2012 which became law in July 2012, that made it illegal to feed Houston’s hungry without special permission from Mayor Parker. Months before the ordinance was passed by city leaders, hundreds of citizens flocked to weekly council meetings addressing their distaste and concern for the ordinance. One person after another was consistently ignored by Mayor Parker and Councilman James Rodriguez (District I) who once championed himself in stating, “treat our homeless with dignity, to be more efficient and to protect public property.” Rodriguez spearheaded the anti-feeding ordinance from start to finish with Mayor Parker in constant support of Rodriguez. The city indicated that there was a food safety concern then changed their concern to trash issues although Republic Trash Service had offered to pick up the trash at no cost to the taxpayer, as a way to show support for those who were AGAINST the food ordinance. There are also laws in effect for littering. Food safety concerns need not be pointed at caring individuals who work relentlessly on any given day to serve hot and healthy meals to those who are hungry, but the city should investigate Star of Hope Women’s shelter located on Houston’s east end of downtown. Star of Hope went on record at city council meetings offering their support FOR the feeding ordinance. Many would wonder if SOH cared so much for the homeless, then why would they support the feeding law? Simple: SOH is given funding in accordance with the number of people they serve, especially children. SOH loses funding if others around the city are caring for their needs. After investigating SOH Women’s shelter early 2012, food safety was my top concern as undercooked chicken, undercooked rice, expired can goods, day old bread and milk were served at the shelter. Several women and children would get sick shortly after eating their meals. I had even advised the Mayor’s office that the city needed to make an unannounced health inspection visit to SOH. To date, the Mayor has not responded to my inquiry after reciting my findings. Because Mr. Kelly’s story is gaining momentum and sparked an outrage among the citizens, Star of Hope’s Scott Arthur who is the Director of Public Relations went on record earlier today on 92 FM Houston News stating that many homeless do not utilize shelters because they do not want to adhere to rules and structure and that SOH is waiting by should the homeless need their help. However, this could not be further from the truth. Along with my investigation at SOH, it was disturbing to see so many homeless families mistreated by SOH volunteers and staff, almost treated like criminals. In bringing this matter to the attention concerning a few staff members who would act subservient and talk down to those in dire straights, I was met with finger pointing which positioned towards the homeless as if to say, they more than likely did something in order to be mistreated, snapped at, rudely spoken to and so on. Staff attitudes were not dealt with. SOH also tends to rely on “God’s work” in assisting the homeless as they hold weekly church services in their facility in which you either have to attend or one must get off the SOH grounds altogether, only being able to return after services are over. Seems hypocritical. Over and over again, many homeless stress that they do not utilize shelters because they are not only mistreated but made to feel as if they are not worthy of those things that make us feel special as a human being, and most of all, stripping their dignity. Star of Hope loses credibility as they should focus on their own issues rather than speaking of the homeless in this manner.

Moments after Mr. Kelly handed me his citation, I went to Facebook to express my outrage over the matter, requesting that we citizens assist him. Within minutes, Mr. Kelly had obtained civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen. By Sunday afternoon, a copy of Mr. Kelly’s citation and story went viral. By Monday morning, media outlets were scrambling to get the story. The story was even listed on the Drudge Report. A story that has gained momentum and public outcry as the homeless continue to be targeted. It takes a soulless individual to pick on the less fortunate as we’ve seen Mayor Parker do in the last year. Even after the feeding ordinance became law, over 34,000 petitioned signatures were submitted to the city in the hopes to get the item on the November 2012 ballot & allow the citizens to vote however Mayor Parker dragged her feet and offered numerous excuses to why she would not get this done on time.

It is now election season as Mayor Parker is in the hopes to win her 3rd term. The dust seemed to have settled shortly after the petitions were continually ignored however today, the anti-sharing law is now the hot topic. If people are unable to freely give people food, then homeless will have to resort to looking in garbage cans in effort of finding something to eat. Now our homeless are targeted for doing that. At this point, one should question whether it is a good idea to have a mayor in office who can apply these kinds of laws on the homeless. As a political leader, that is about as low as one can go.

Federal lawsuit filed against the City of Houston concerning the Anti-Sharing Feeding Law passed by Mayor Parker & City Council earlier this year

The Christmas holidays are now over. Several groups have packed up and exited locations in the Houston area where several charitable groups stood for several hours on Christmas day, feeding hundreds of Houston’s needy. This season is much different than seasons in the years past. April 2012, Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker along with council members Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Wanda Adams, Ed Gonzalez, James Rodriguez, Mike Laster, Larry Green, Stephen Costello, Andrew Burks and Melissa Noriega voted in favor of the ordinance that has made it illegal for any one person or more, to feed 6+ people in need of food. Council members Helena Brown, Mike Sullivan, Al Hoang, Oliver Pennington, C.O. Bradford and Jack Christie voted against it.

To date, several Houstonians are in disbelief that this law is in effect. Many more are upset because Mayor Parker has refused to address the 34,000 signatures that were turned over to the City Secretary nearly 4-months ago. Several inquiries have been made to Mayor Parker concerning the petitions and each have been met with silence as Parker continues to ignore the citizens of Houston just as she and council did months before they passed the anti-food sharing ordinance. This year, any group including individuals who wanted to feed the homeless in the city, on public property and was to feed more than 5-individuals, had to do so with Mayor Parker’s written permission, permission that can take weeks to obtain. If you suddenly had the will to serve anyone in need of food and legally share your food, you would have to wait weeks or else face the risk of fines from $500 – $2,000 or even worse, arrest.

Fed up with the waiting game that comes by Mayor Parker’s office, Paul Kubosh along with his family, have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston for violating their Constitutional Right to give, feed, etc. The First Amendment holds religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to peacefully assemble and so on in which this lawsuit would generally qualify under federal protection. Houston’s Civil Rights Attorney, Randall Kallinen, is representing the Kubosh family which also includes two high school students who are the son and daughter of Paul Kubosh. The teenagers expressed how blessed they were to have so much and unfortunately so many others do not have the same luxury. In turn, these students give up their free time to feed the homeless on many occasions rather than ignoring the needs of others. However because of this new law, the Kubosh family risks the same fines and arrests that has so many hesitant in giving.

After the law passed, several including myself, flooded city council meetings asking for Parker to respect our right to petition the law by having the city count and verify the signatures. Each council meeting was met with complete arrogance, distain for Houston citizens and without appropriate answers. Several requested that the city allow the voters be allowed to determine whether the law should be reversed. Mayor Parker bluntly said NO, citing that the city didn’t have time to count the signatures when in fact; the city had plenty of time to count and get the ordinance on the ballot. Media silence has since followed this issue. Press conferences have been called as media falls back on the issue. Parker & the city continue to ignore emails requesting feedback on the petition. Many question: Why would she do this?

Simply put, this year Mayor Parker is up for re-election. Parker is looking to save her image. Shortly after Parker survived criticism concerning the feeding ordinance, Mayor Parker was seen on the front page of a local newspaper with a smile on her face, as a homeless veteran stood next to her during a photo op and announcement that through homeless organizations in the Houston area, this vet now had a home. A great save to an unsettling muddy image of a Mayor who could be so heartless to wage war on defenseless hungry people. I expect to see further media blackouts where it concerns this ordinance and I am certain Mayor Parker will utilize the media at her disposal in an effort to wipe up all the dark spots she has concerning her image. While I am not the only person who feels as such, this is about as low as one could go as a politician, picking on the defenseless to satisfy the greed of others.

(Photographs by Burnell McCray)

Efforts continue to stop the feeding ordinance as 34,000 petition signatures are personally turned over to Mayor Parker’s office

A press conference was held on August 13th in the City Hall lobby as Paul Kubosh, Nick Cooper and Randall Kallinen address the media over new information surfacing over Houston’s unpopular feeding ordinance. Several volunteers feverishly counted and verified all the petitions signed by Houston voters. The results: 34,000 signatures gained. The Kubosh brothers were known for fronting the red light camera petition and was able to get the signatures needed in order to get the voters to make the final decision as the law was placed on a ballot. Voters had decided to have the cameras turned off. The feeding ordinance is now the hot topic. While the July 1st deadline to turn in the petitions of at least 20,000 signatures came and went, unable to meet that deadline, the effort is far from over. A handful of volunteers personally walked the 34,000 signatures and delivered them to the City Secretary.

As the press conference was held, it was obvious that our local media was MIA. Coverage of the events unfolding has been minimal although each media outlet such as ABC 13, Fox 26, Channel 2 News, KHOU 11 among other more visiable medias were nowhere to be found although invited to attend the press conference. Coincidence? It has been rumored that Parker has recently had local major media pulled from covering this all too important issue. Paul Kubosh reminded the public that this feeding ordinance is a grassroots effort. Individuals of various political background have come together to overturn this law. This ordinance is not sitting well with Democratic voters, the very same party Parker is representing. To silence any media from making Mayor Parker appear as if she is not serving the citizens, has been a key effort in keeping voters on her side. The “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you” theory is the game. However there are a a few remaining journalist who haven’t been intimidated or strong armed by Mayor Parker’s recent antics. At this point of Mayor Parker’s career, it is imparative for voters to know just who they are dealing with as Parker is up for her 3rd term come November 2013. Should the city employ a mayor and council members who seemingly bully those who are destitute?

Meanwhile, the feedings continue multiple times a week. Unfortunately due to the ordinance, other charitable feeding groups have dropped out from public feedings due to intimidation, as Food Not Bombs Houston volunteer Nick Cooper, expresses to the public while adding that the lines have quadrupled in size at the FNB feedings because the other groups fear the hefty $500 – $2,000 or even arrest. This means that more homeless will go without meals on a day to day basis because prior to the law, these groups worked hand in hand.

How can you help? Call the city office at 832-393-1100 and ask to get on docket to address your Mayor and council members. A meeting is being held today at 2:00 p.m. at City Hall: 900 Bagby Houston, TX 77002.