Houston man suing the city for the right to feed the homeless
HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A Houston man is taking on the City of Houston. He's suing, saying he has the constitutional right to feed the homeless this Thanksgiving and any day he chooses. You may remember the Charitable Feeding Ban went into effect a few years ago making it illegal to feed the homeless.
Phillip Paul Bryant says it shouldn't be against the law to give food to someone in need. He says it should be the other way around, a crime not to give.
"We're just trying to make sure a fellow human doesn't starve," says Bryant's attorney Eric Dick. "We aren't asking for anything else but to give food to those that are less fortunate. Please let us do it."
"It shouldn't be against the law to help people. We're here to fight that battle," adds Bryant.
Houston City Council members say they passed the Charitable Feeding Ban to ensure homeless people receive food prepared under health code regulations and so those in need will turn to an organization to eat so they will receive other resources, services and shelter as well.
"Many of them (shelters) take probably no more than 150 people. How many homeless are there? You can not fit all of the homeless into the shelters," says Houston resident Sandra Massie Hines.
"We pursued this lawsuit because we thought the city was trying to infringe, not only on the less fortunate but also trying to discourage good people, good Samaritans from doing the right thing," Bryant says.
"It's Thanksgiving. The whole purpose of this holiday is to share food and eat. Let us practice our religion, let us follow our faith. That's all we're asking," Dick adds.
Bryant says a number of groups wanting to set up outdoors and feed the homeless this Thanksgiving are discouraged for fear of being punished by the police.
"There's going to be a lot of people saying do we feed them? Do we not feed them? Do we want to go to Jail? Do we want to get a ticket?" says attorney Chris Carmona.
Those who want to feed the homeless have to first get approval from the city, and depending on where you plan to set up, you may have to get permission from the property owner.
You could face a $500 fine for violating the ban. If you don't pay, you could go to jail.