There’s dignity in going hungry. At least, that’s the viewpoint of Michael Nutter, who is mayor of Philadelphia. Nutter has imposed a ban on feeding homeless people at sites on and near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and at all city parkland, including Love Park.
According to CBS News, Nutter explained that offering food to the hungry at public places in the City of Brotherly Love invites unsanitary conditions and robs the poor of their dignity.
“Providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night,” Nutter said. But if you’re planning a picnic, don’t worry: the ban does not apply to family gatherings.
A similar restriction is being implemented by New York’s mayor Bloomberg. As described in a New York Post article last week, the city’s Department of Homeless Services has imposed new rules on the nutritional content of food to be served at city shelters. Because food given to needy people by churches, synagogues, or individuals can’t be tested, it can’t be given away under the new rules, and all such food formerly given to city-run facilities will now be refused.
In New York, it has long been a practice of houses of worship to bring food to the city’s shelters. Now, that’s prohibited. The Post article by Jeff Stier notes, “DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.”
And: “Diamond insists that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve food that meets the rules but also tastes good; it just isn’t too salty. So, says the commissioner, the homeless really don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.”
That’s a lie, say long-time providers such as Glenn and Lenore Richter, who have been providing such food for more than a decade –– although they doesn’t use that word. And of course the personal interaction among cooks, donors, and recipients has a significant value which the Bloomberg bureaucrats probably have no ability to understand.
Presumably, the “institutional vendors” will be able to increase their profits now, which is the main thing. And those who are hungry can rest assured that, although they will be deprived of the food formerly brought by people such as the Richters, they won’t be getting too much salt.
These examples are by no means isolated. Beginning with Las Vegas in 2006, American cities have been systematically barring the giving of food to hungry people unless it is by city agents and under controlled conditions.
Vegas ran into trouble with a federal judge by explicitly saying in its ordinance that it was impermissible to feed ‘the indigent.’ Since then, municipalities across America have been careful not to specify that the homeless are not to fed in public in their rules against feeding the homeless in public. As I mentioned in a Parallel World column on Christmas, My Father’s House, the city of Orlando, Florida, has been prosecuting the group Food Not Bombs for feeding soup to the homeless in public parks. Other such ordinances are in effect in Dallas, Houston, and numerous other cities, and where it is not completely prohibited, the rules under which it is regulated are generally impossible to comply with –– which is the point. Between 2006 and the present, the number of homeless in Las Vegas has doubled to about 20,000. Figures have ballooned comparably in other major cities.
Americans don’t want to see the homeless; they are an embarrassment. Any time a group or individual tries to provide food in a centralized location, urban authorities make sure it can’t happen. They do not care about their ‘nutrition’ in New York or their ‘dignity’ in Philadelphia. They don’t want the poor congregating. They want them to leave, or at least keep out of sight.
There’s something deeply disturbing about the spread of municipal ordinances designed to sever the connection between those in need and those whose generosity of spirit impels them to try to help. America is already in terrible trouble. The so-called ‘recovery’ which the President likes to brag about is a lie, as anyone who can’t find a job or has simply given up trying can testify. The stock market is what has ‘recovered.’ The bonuses have ‘recovered.’ The poor are worse off than ever and there are more of them.
The country’s teetering on the brink of a depression and there is no sign that the President or any of his rivals has the slightest idea how to fix it or the slightest inclination to do so even if they did.
If going hungry promotes dignity in Philadelphia, imagine how good it must be to starve to death.