In the most recent example of government regulation not only intruding into the private interaction of citizens, but actually inflicting suffering, news reports surfaced this week that well-meaning good Samaritans are being ticketed for sharing food with the homeless and hungry.

San Antonio police recently served a ticket on a chef who dared to share restaurant quality food to those truly in need. The offense: Lack of a permit. The fine? Two-thousand-dollars.

While local governments sometimes cite the need to protect the homeless from the dangers of consuming food from unknown sources, claiming it might be unclean, spoiled or even tampered with, chef Joan Cheever’s decade-long charitable work hardly fits in that category.

She has provided these quality meals for the past decade and has all the required licenses for a commercial kitchen and the delivery truck, but does not have a license to give food to the needy.

But San Antonio is not the only city to enact such laws prohibiting charity to provide for our fellow man’s most basic need. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida has also been in the news when a 90-year-old chef, Arnold Abbot, was arrested for sharing food with the homeless, facing two-months in jail and hundreds of dollars in fines.

A pastor in Birmingham, Alabama was prevented from sharing food with the homeless because his food truck did not have the appropriate license.

However, other cities share the shame. The National Law Center on Homeless and Policy reported in 2014 that 9 percent of U.S. cities have passed similar laws.

The National Coalition for the Homeless found that over 30 cities have already passed or are in the process of enacting similar ordinances since January 2013.

Arguably, the cities are infringing on the citizens’ right to freedom of assembly, as guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and reiterated in state constitutions.

In reality, what city councils and mayor’s offices are seeking to do is outlaw the “crimes” of homelessness and hunger by pushing the real victims into the shadows. Such sites do not show off a city to tourists or attract business.

The homeless and hungry are our neighbors, “the least among us,” but are not pleasant reminders of our failure to solve the age-old problem of poverty and hopelessness. And in the meantime, easing their plight is a crime.



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