It’s the holiday season and many people around the country choose to give back by feeding the homeless and less fortunate. Unfortunately, in the city of Atlanta, advocates of the homeless are now being charged a fee in order to gain a permit that allows them to feed the less fortunate within city limits.
Georgia State University police were handing out flyers at Hurt Park this past weekend. The flyers, which included the city’s seal, stated that if anyone intends to feed the homeless in the streets or parks, they are now required to have a permit. In an interview with wabe.org, Marshall Rancifer, an advocate for the homeless, discussed how after 17 years, he was shocked by the news. “I’ve never been required to have a permit. I’ve been feeding people on the streets for 17 years,” Rancifer said.
Police Chief of Georgia State University, Joseph Spillane has stated that permits have always been required due to food safety reasons. He also goes on to explain why he believes that feeding people on the streets have become such a problem. In an interview with wabe.org, he stated, “If you look around the city where these feedings happen, unfortunately, there’s trash everywhere afterwards, and someone has to clean that up.” The Chief explains that campus police or the city are left to clean up after the homeless, and this drains the city’s resources. For these reasons, people are now encouraged to give out food indoors, at churches or shelters.
Advocates however, believe that this is not an effort of the police trying to find more humane ways of feeding the homeless, but instead, it’s an effort to keep the homeless away from certain areas. The Midtown homeless shelter on Peachtree and Pine was closed, and around the time of the closure, advocates report this is when police started handing out flyers warning not to feed the homeless. Around the country, we have seen these efforts, as they try to rid popular downtown locations of homeless individuals who are living in streets and parks around the city. These efforts are not a solution to any problems, it’s merely a way of pushing the homeless away from popular locations, into more obscure areas within the city limits.
Many advocates have stated instead of using money to pay for permits, they can use that money to serve the homeless. Police are warning that citations are possible for anyone violating these permit requirements.