Homeless people can be smelly, unattractive, and sometimes dangerous. Of course, the vast majority aren’t dangerous at all, but you never know.
Nevertheless, it is simply a fact that population centers have a number of people who are homeless. This is especially true in warmer places since, if a homeless person can scratch up bus fare, it is far better to be homeless in an area that doesn’t get freezing cold. People try to help them, and that means other people might have to see them at the point where the help is offered.
In Daytona Beach a husband and wife were given citations for “holding a birthday party” in a public park in which they fed about forty people, presumably all of whom were homeless (though that was not a condition of receiving food).
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
The citations and trespass warnings against Chico and Debbie Jimenez and their volunteers are part of an increased effort by the police to discourage Good Samaritans from steering homeless people away from the agencies set up to provide the same services. It’s part of the city’s and county’s broader effort to eventually centralize homeless services.
“The ordinance is there, so if we catch you, we’re going to cite you,” Police Chief Mike Chitwood said Thursday. “If you want to feed people, and you want to do a good, Christian act, we encourage you to coordinate with the social service agencies.”
I find it interesting that Chitwood used the word “encourage.” It is a dishonest word. It implies that they are using persuasion in a free country. It should be a free country, but they aren’t limiting themselves to persuasion. The correct word is “require” as in: “We require you to coordinate with the social service agencies.” The fact that Chitwood prefers a nicer word indicates that he knows how un-American he is being. Or at least he knows that it will be more apparent to listeners if he is honest.
Just like taxi cab companies or other local forms of fascist monopoly, the city and county are cartelizing “charity.” Just like all cartelizing local governments, the agents have a “public good” rationalization for their interference with free people:
Marbut has told city leaders that feeding the homeless in parks or handing out supplies under bridges worsens the cycle of homelessness because it doesn’t get people the lasting help they actually need.
The Jimenezes don’t see it that way. Chico, who quit his job as a construction project manager, and Debbie, who quit hers as a manager of an auto-parts store, run a ministry that helps in ways beyond meals. They’ve used donations to help pay for hotel rooms, power bills, backpacks and bicycles. They said their home-cooked food is better than what the homeless can get at a local shelter. And they contend that the area’s homeless agencies don’t want to lose people to outside feedings because that means fewer of them come to the agencies — which means less funding.
They also claim their home-cooked meals, funded only by private means, are better than the processed meals served by the others.
Of course, even referring to “the area’s homeless agencies” biases the discussion, since there is no reason in the world not to count the Jimenzes as one of the areas homeless agencies.
“If we were criminals, it’d be one thing,” said Diane Clester, one of the small ministry’s volunteers who was also cited by police Wednesday. “But we’re not… When we leave, there isn’t a scrap of paper on the ground, nothing. Within an hour and a half, they’re done and gone.”
I can understand why people want the homeless out of sight and away from parks. And I can’t say for sure that one of the official, subsidized, homeless agencies might not do a better job in some cases.
But I do know it is supposed to be a free country. And basic economics 101 tells me that a homeless agency will tend to get worse if it doesn’t have any competition.