[Hpn] ALERT: FREE FEEDINGS outside Baltimore City Hall outlawed fwd

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 12 Dec 2000 10:29:35 -0800 (PST)

CIRCULATE PLEASE to nonviolent defenders of our Civil Rights
                 to help people in need & break bread with our neighbors:

ALERT: Help ECC serve FREE FOOD Mondays starting 3:30PM at City Hall
       in Baltimore!

       As Holiday Shopping begins, a City edict has declared
       "outdoor feedings" OFF-LIMITS dwontown near City Hall.

       Environmental Crisis Center
       1936 East 30th St. (near Harford Rd.)
       410-235-7110 (Linda, Charles or Chayim)
       EMAIL "Rabbi Chayim Levin" <ChayimLevin@Hotmail.com>

Food Not Bombs Baltimore has also faced harrassment for feeding people
FOX 45, Channel 11, & WBAL are also covering this story.  ACLU is monitoring:

FWD  Baltimore Sun - Dec 11 2000


     Dan Rodricks

A CHRISTMAS tree went up near City Hall last week, and the groups who feed
hungry street people there got a note from the city telling them to move
their operations over by the jail. The city distributed copies of its
"winter plan" for the homeless to volunteers who give out sandwiches on
Holliday Street, in front of City Hall, each evening. "Effective December
4," the city declared, "street feeding will be conducted at Fallsway and
Madison Avenue."

That's a city lot by the Jones Falls Expressway, just east and south of the
Central Booking and Intake Center, the Mussolini-inspired edifice that has
been the focus of Mayor Martin O'Malley's ambitions to more quickly process
criminal cases that choke Baltimore's court dockets.

Predictably, some advocates for the homeless believe the O'Malley
administration's "winter plan" is aimed at purging Holliday Street of the
dozens of grim-looking street people who make an unsettling political
statement - to city officials and dignitaries visiting City Hall - with
their presence. One poverty worker remarked at the symbolism - the
association of homelessness and hunger with criminality -and joked that the
"winter plan" might lower the Police Department's costs of transporting
suspects to Central Booking.

But Leslie Leitch, director of the Department of Housing and Community
Development's Office of Homeless Services, defends the "winter plan" as an
opportunity to "better engage individuals to access services and end the
cycle of homelessness." It's not an attempt to clean up City Hall plaza,
though, Leitch says, "that would be an outcome."

Handing out sandwiches is a good thing, she says. "But we can do better." <P>
It was a "Dear Outreach Provider" letter from Leitch, under the letterhead
of O'Malley and the city's new housing commissioner, Paul Graziano, that
went to volunteers on Holliday Street last week. The letter described the
Fallsway location as "a more appropriate and secure environment." It
promised tables, trash cans, portable toilets and a trailer for volunteers
to use. Leitch also promised that "experienced outreach workers" from the
city Department of Social Services would be stationed at the feeding lot
each night to offer help to the homeless and the hungry.

These services could have been offered on Holliday Street, of course, but
that would not have achieved the "outcome" of a more aesthetically pleasing
City Hall plaza.

Rob Hess, president of the Center for Poverty Solutions, says he's
"troubled" by the edict on street feeding. "We look forward with enthusiasm
to working with the new administration, but this letter is of concern to
us," Hess says. "It looks like an 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude
toward the poor."

Efforts have been made to rid other downtown areas of street people. Last
year, there was an attempt, backed by Orioles owner Peter Angelos and
others in the business community, to relocate Our Daily Bread's 900-meal
lunch operation from Cathedral Street, next to the Basilica of the
Assumption, across the JFX valley to a vacant building a few blocks from
the Maryland Penitentiary.

Food has been handed out near City Hall for a few years. The exemplary Glen
Burnie teen-ager, Amber Coffman, organizer of Happy Helpers for the
Homeless, brought sandwiches, toiletries, Christmas and Easter presents
there on weekends. A group of volunteers from Loyola College is among those
who regularly hand out food on Holliday Street.

Friday, volunteers from Our Lady of the Fields Roman Catholic Church in
Millersville distributed their last meals at City Hall about 7 p.m. As they
packed up to leave, they said they planned to move their charitable
operation to the Fallsway this week.

But at least one group, which calls itself the Environmental Crisis Center,
says it plans to continue to conduct its regular Monday afternoon street
feeding at City Hall, in defiance of Leitch's letter.

Leitch will not say how her order is to be enforced. "I'm going to have to
remain vague about that," she says.

Along with her announcement last week, Leitch issued guidelines for the use
of the new feeding lot on the Fallsway, including admonitions against
"signs, banners, displayed advertising ... loud speakers, amplifiers and
microphones .... helium- or air-filled balloons." I guess that means a
Christmas tree won't be permitted either.


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