Should feeding the poor without permits be a crime?

Tom Boland (
Sun, 23 May 1999 13:38:21 -0700 (PDT)

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Should feeding the poor without permits be a crime?

Is it useful and fair for government to require permission for people to
help neighbors, such as feeding homeless people for free?

Useful to whom?

Fair to whom?

What and who motivates government officials to deter and shut down givaways
to poor people?

For a related article, see below:
FWD  [California, USA] Sacramento Bee Local News - May 23, 1999


By Marcos Breton [sp?]
Bee Staff Writer

Four years ago, at the suggestion of their children, Frank and Monica
Victorio began feeding homeless and needy people on their block, a
working-class neighborhood on 32nd Avenue off Franklin Boulevard.

   "We wanted to feed our neighbors, because there is a lot of need here,"
said Frank Victorio, a 48-year-old former Spanish-language interpreter for
UC Davis Medical Center.

   The Victorios say they wanted to emulate Mother Teresa, the late Nobel
Peace Prize-winning Catholic nun who dedicated her life to the destitute.
Never did they consider getting a city permit.

   Until now.

   Sacramento code enforcement officers have cited the Victorios as a
public nuisance for operating a food locker without a permit, a violation
for which they face several thousand dollars in fines.

   Because the Victorios are resolute about continuing food giveaways at
least twice a week, that penalty could grow and include the city's placing
a lien on the tiny, lime-green dwelling where they run a small nonprofit
agency whose focus is mentoring and sheltering dozens of at-risk kids.

   Complaints from neighbors and the absence of a city permit that costs
$4,950 to obtain triggered this dispute between a family seeking to do good
deeds and Sacramento officials charged with enforcing city regulations.

   "We advised them of the ordinance, discussed the situation and told
them, 'Hey, you can't do this out here,' " said Rodney Arnold, senior code
enforcement officer for the city.

   "Complaints came in from neighbors who said there were people urinating
on the sidewalks. Some neighbors said there were people throwing trash in
their yard."

   After investigation of complaints, Arnold said, the Victorios were
informed April 6 that they were giving away food without a permit. Fourteen
days later, they were warned again, he said.

   Since they ignored the warnings, the city cited the Victorios as a
public nuisance, a process that ran up nearly $700 in administrative costs
that the Victorios will have to pay no matter what the outcome, Arnold said.

   Fixtures in south Sacramento and active in the Catholic Diocese of
Sacramento, the Victorios say they have been mystified by their fight with
the city. Until now, they had received praise from community leaders for
taking in at-risk kids, letting them sleep at their house, getting them in
school and making them focus on academics.

   The food giveaways are a part of that educational process, said Frank
Victorio: The children staying with the couple distribute food to learn
compassion and caring for others.

   "I don't have the $4,950 to give away to the city to feed the poor,"
Victorio said. "We're not a food locker, we just give food to our
neighbors. How can you turn your back on people?"

   Arnold said city officials have stepped up efforts to make sure people
are in compliance with city ordinances no matter what the area of activity.
If the Victorios don't stop, they could incur anywhere between several
thousand dollars and $25,000 in fines and have a lien placed on their
house, he said.

   The Victorios have contacted their lawyer and appealed to local Catholic
officials for help. The Sacramento Diocese's Auxiliary Bishop Richard
Garcia said Friday that he would like to see the dispute resolved.

   "Families like the Victorios are very rare," Garcia said. "I hope we
reach a compromise where (they) continue their work."


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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