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National Coalition for the Homeless                  National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
2201 P. St. N.W.                                                     1411 K Street NW. Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20010                                         Washington, DC 20005
Tel: (202) 462-4822                                                     Tel: (202) 638-2535
 www.nationalhomeless.org                                         www.nlchp.org


Contacts: Neil Donovan, Executive Director, NCH, (202) 462-4822 x228
 Whitney Gent, Development & Communications Director, The Law Center, (202) 638-2535

Cities Restrict Charities from Providing Food to Homeless People
New Report Details Food Sharing Restrictions and Alternatives

Washington, DC, July 1, 2010 – National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty today released A Place at the Table: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness.  The report focuses on cities that have created ordinances, policies and tactics to limit groups from sharing food with homeless people.  Alternative solutions and programs to penalizing food sharing activities are highlighted in the report.

Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the Law Center, said, “As the recession and foreclosure crises drive dramatic increases in poverty and homelessness, communities should be embracing solutions to homelessness, rather than punishing people for feeding those in need. Restricting food sharing is not a constructive approach.”

The report argues that targeting churches, service providers and volunteers by placing restrictions on providing food to homeless people is part of a broader trend toward criminalizing homelessness.  Criminalization measures include city laws that outlaw activities homeless people are forced to do in public spaces because of their lack of a home or shelter, such as sitting on sidewalks and eating and sleeping in public.  These laws have been created in communities nationwide and are an ineffective response to homelessness.  The report outlines how different types of laws and tactics are being used to restrict food sharing.

“The criminalization or restriction of specific activities that seek to serve people experiencing homelessness should cause any community to sound an alarm that their ability to meet the needs of those who are least among them is compromised and needs fixing,” said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

National advocacy groups argue that access to food is both a human need and right.  When cities prohibit the charitable act of sharing food with homeless people, the city is hindering crucial access to food for the homeless population.  City leaders must instead look towards alternatives, including working with food sharing groups, promoting innovative programs in their communities, and utilizing federal nutrition programs.

The report highlights food sharing restrictions in 23 communities across the country, including: Atlanta, Ga.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Gainesville, Fla.; Huntington, N.Y.;  Las Vegas, Nev.; Little Rock, Ark.; Miami, Fla.; Middletown, Conn.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Portland, Or.; San Diego, Cal.; San Juan, P.R.; Sarasota, Fla.; Sultan, Wash.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Wilmington, N.C.

The full report is available online here.

National Coalition for the Homeless
2201 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037-1033

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