City puts a stop to homeless outreach
Couple must have proper permit to continue feeding dozens each day
By BRADLEY OLSON
Jan. 13, 2011, 11:14PM
Bobby and Amanda Herring spent more than a year providing food to homeless people in downtown Houston every day. They fed them, left behind no trash and doled out warm meals peacefully without a single crime being committed, Bobby Herring said.
That ended two weeks ago when the city shut down their “Feed a Friend” effort for lack of a permit. And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one.
“We don’t really know what they want, we just think that they don’t want us down there feeding people,” said Bobby Herring, a Christian rapper who goes by the stage name Tre9.
Anyone serving food for public consumption, whether for the homeless or for sale, must have a permit, said Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department. To get that permit, the food must be prepared in a certified kitchen with a certified food manager.
The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless, Barton said, because “poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care.”
Bobby Herring said those rules would preclude them from continuing to feed the 60 to 120 people they assisted nightly for more than a year. The food had been donated from area businesses and prepared in various kitchens by volunteers or by his wife.
I understand the city’s concern that the food the clean and free of foodborne illness. But the most important line above is: “And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one.” The story continues:
City officials in the past had considered passing a “public feeding” ordinance that would make it easier for people like the Herrings to comply with rules designed to protect people’s health and well being. The ordinance could involve easier and cheaper permitting processes, she said, although there had not been discussion of the matter for some time.
Obviously, city officials have done nothing to “make it easier” for charitable people to help the poor. Houston has laws to protect the health of the poor, but can’t find the time to pass a law enabling the generous citizens to feed those less fortunate. God willing, this story will push Houston into action.