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Mayor Michael Nutter of PhiladelphiaMayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia

Religious Charity Plans to Break the Law in Philadelphia

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A Philadelphia religious charity is set on breaking the law in the city of brotherly love. Philadelphia banned outdoor feeding of the homeless in an effort to remove them from the metropolitan area’s parkways. Religious groups have been distributing food to homeless people in the areas where the ban is in effect for more than a decade.

Mayor Michael Nutter claims that the ban was meant to get homeless people indoors and get them the other treatments they may need like physical and mental health treatment.

Opponents of the ban think the law is bogus and a violation of the rights of freedom of association and religion. They also believe that the new law was timed to coincide with the opening of the Barnes collection in May at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. The mayor denied this charge.

Reverend Brian Jenkins, head of Chosen 300 Ministries, is planning to violate the ban if it stays in effect. Currently, a judge has halted enforcement of the homeless feeding ban for about four months. Jenkins said that it is his calling and he is not going to stop giving food to the homeless.

The four charities fighting the new law filed a law suit which stated that the new law demonstrates “a determination to remove from the vicinity of the Barnes Foundation those that some view as undesirable to the public image of the city of Philadelphia.”

Sister Mary Scullian, executive director of Project H.O.M.E., testified in court that the ban, “will have a devastating impact on the lives of the people who live on the parkway.”

The mayor said that the ban was an interim step in getting homeless people the help they need in the city. He said that the city arranged for distribution of food to homeless residents on part of the outdoor plaza that surrounds City Hall.

The ban would have taken effect on June 1 but a judge asked that the ban not be enforced until the challenge to the law is sorted out in court.

Several charity groups and organizations believe that the ban in one more step in criminalizing the homeless. Heather Johnson, a civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, said, “We think that criminalization measures such as these are counterproductive. Rather than address the root cause of homelessness, they perpetuate homelessness.”

Mayor Nutter’s proposal would prevent homeless people from being fed on the streets or in public parks. Those who try to help the homeless will be fined $150. Another aspect of Nutter’s proposal adds tougher regulations for those who want to feed the homeless. It adds that volunteers need a certificate and to attend city classes before they can feed the homeless outdoors.

Visit iPetitions if you wish to sign the petition opposing Mayor Nutter’s ban on feeding the homeless in the city of brotherly love.

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