[Hpn] Santa Monica's tries again to turn people into criminals for giving away food.

www.richardcohenfilms.com rbc24@earthlink.net
Mon, 23 Sep 2002 15:01:11 -0700

Santa Monica's tries again to turn people into criminals for giving away food.
There's a demonstration on the lawn of Santa Monica City Hall, this Tuesday
night, September 24, 2002 at 5:30pm, against a proposed ordinance to outlaw
outdoor feeding programs.   Below is an article by Robert Myers -- Richard

         Outlawing Feeding Programs Suppresses Religious Liberty
         and Violates International Human Rights Standards

         By Robert M. Myers

              Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.
                                    – Proverbs 22:9

         As the kick-off policy initiative of her reelection campaign, Council
member Pam
         O’Connor wants to make criminals out of private citizens who feed the
hungry in our
         community. O’Connor took this action in response to complaints from the
         District Corporation. This has been a familiar election-year theme for
more than a
         decade, as Santa Monica leaders seek to placate those with much by
         those with little of human dignity through a variety of punitive

         The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of
         who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too
                               – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

         The fruit of O’Connor’s political pandering is an ordinance to be
considered by the
         Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday night. (Voters concerned about
civil rights
         laws, including rent control, should not even consider voting for
politicians like
         O’Connor who don’t have the backbone to defend the powerless.) This
         attempts to criminalize those who answer their personal religious,
political, or moral
         call to feed the hungry.

                                   Share the Wealth

                          1.God wants us
                             to be our brother's keeper.
                          2.To feed the hungry,
                             to clothe the naked,
                             to shelter the homeless,
                             to instruct the ignorant,
                             at a personal sacrifice,
                             is what God
                             wants us to do.
                             What we give to the poor
                             for Christ's sake
                             is what we carry with us
                             when we die.

                      – Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker

         It is important to understand what this ordinance is about. Contrary to
the City’s
         proffered justifications, this ordinance is not about concern for the
quality of food
         served to homeless people, since the feeding programs provide safe and
         food which receives better reviews than the food provided by some

         It is not about the need for park space for other uses, since the
feeding programs
         operate at times and places when there is ample room for everyone. It
is not about
         "outsiders" coming to Santa Monica to serve the poor, since around the
         "outsiders" are commended for their hunger relief efforts. It is not
about preserving
         the City’s social service system, since it is already inadequate to
meet the needs of
         the City’s homeless population and private efforts support rather than
         efforts to aid the poor.

         If one of your kinsman in any community is in need in the land which
the Lord,
         your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your
hand to
          him in his need. Instead, you shall open your hand to him and freely
lend him
         enough to meet his need. . . . When you give to him, give freely and
not with ill
            will; for the Lord, your God, will bless you for this in all your
works and
            undertakings. The needy will never be lacking in the land; that is
why I
           command you to open your hand to your poor and needy kinsman in your
                                – Deuteronomy, 15:7-11

         Make no mistake about it. This ordinance aims to drive homeless people
out of
         Santa Monica. Since 1991, the City has pursued a four-part strategy to
         homeless people out of town. First, the City articulates the principle
that only
         "professional" social service agencies should help the homeless.
Second, it limits the
         number of social service agencies – and, correspondingly, the number of
         people served – through the City’s funding process. Third, it
repeatedly attempts to
         curtail private efforts to help the homeless. Fourth, it unleashes
punitive law
         enforcement measures against homeless people remaining in public

           [P]eople experiencing homelessness are subject to basic violations of
          civil rights through the unconstitutional application of laws,
arbitrary police
           practices and discriminatory public regulations. Local governments,
         departments, and local business improvement districts, from our largest
          to our most rural communities, are diverting precious public resources
         funding to penalize people for being homeless. Lacking private spaces
in which
         to carry out life-sustaining activities such as sleeping, resting,
storing personal
         belongings, or activities associated with personal hygiene, people
          homelessness face the further indignity of arrest. They will still be
             when released but leave with a criminal record and another barrier
           obtaining housing. These short-sighted laws and practices may make
          sound bites but only serve to invest more tax dollars in jails than in
                               health care and services.
          -- Illegal to be Homeless: The Criminalization of the Homeless in the
United States

         These efforts are part of a larger battle in our society between rich
and poor. People
         with houses, businesses, and ample resources do not want homeless
people in our
         community. Although the Bayside District Corporation has no problem
         businesses that sell sweatshop-made products on the Third Street
Promenade, it
         doesn’t want homeless people tarnishing the shopping experience of its

         The City of Santa Monica is one of the wealthiest communities in
Southern California
         and some of our residents find it uncomfortable to be reminded that the
presence of
         hungry people is the consequence of economic and tax policies which
enhance the
         incomes of the prosperous at the expense of the poor. Indeed, the State
budget is
         consistently balanced by slashing health and welfare expenditures and
sparing the
         wealthy from tax increases.

            The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the
         enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother's keeper because we
are our
             brother's brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all
                                 – Martin Luther King, Jr.

         It is astonishing in an affluent society that anyone would be upset
with citizens who
         volunteer to feed the hungry. 13.8 percent of Californians live in
poverty and 4.1
         percent of all households in the state do not have enough food to avoid
         Nationwide, more than 36 million people, including 14 million children,
         hunger. Private citizens responding to this overwhelming need should be

         commended, not prosecuted.

         Then the King will say to those on the right, Come, you who are blessed
by my
         Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
         For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a
drink. I was a
           stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you
gave me
          clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you
visited me.
          Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you
          and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a
stranger and
          show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever
          you sick or in prison, and visit you? And the King will tell them, I
assure you,
          when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were
                                    doing it to me!
                                  – Matthew 25:34-40

         The human right to adequate food is recognized in several instruments
         international law. In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first
articulated the
         human right of "freedom from want," including the right to food. Both
the Universal
         Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,
         and Cultural Rights recognize the right to food as a basic human right.
         efforts to outlaw food relief unmistakably contravene international

          "The right to food is the right to have regular, permanent and
          access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to
          and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the
          traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which
ensures a
          physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and
dignified life free
                                    from anxiety."
                   – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

         Santa Monica clearly does not have the authority to legislate in
contravention of
         these well-established religious and human rights principles. The men,
women, and
         children providing food to the unfortunate of our community are good
and decent
         people. The City Council should reconsider making their charitable
works of mercy a
         crime in Santa Monica.

          One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree
with St.
                      Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
                                -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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