Facing a large and boisterous crowd, Lancaster’s City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to postpone a vote on a controversial ordinance seeking to ban handing out food to the homeless on public property.
The ordinance was drafted to stop individuals and groups from distributing food on public streets, sidewalks, parking lots or other public property. It’s expected to come back to the City Council in about six months for a vote.
But dozens of activists, commuting leaders, formerly and currently homeless people filled the council chamber to share emotional testimonies and public comment about their family members and friends who lived on the streets.
“This dehumanizes the city and targets those who need the help the most,” one man said during the council’s public comment on the matter. “It’s targeting the homelessness but when I gave out food, 90% of the food is going to children. They are the ones who’re going to suffer from this. This is the city’s job to find a solution.”
Two city agencies, including the Criminal Justice Commission and the Homeless Impact Commission, have recommended the ordinance to City Council for its consideration and adoption.
The ordinance does allow volunteers and groups wanting to use space in a public park, if it meets water and sanitation requirements established in state food safety laws and regulations. They must also hold a permit from the Los Angeles County Health Department and comply with all state and county food safety requirements.
Meanwhile, construction on a project called Kensington Campus — a community complex designed to house, employ, and rehabilitate homeless people — is underway. Given that the complex is in the pipeline, the city has been encouraging people wanting to serve meals or “provide other assistance to people in need to volunteer their time and services at Kensington Campus,” the ordinance said.
More to come