Task force will look at food help for the homeless

near Family Court to get food. In March, the city banned outdoor meals. DAVID M WARREN / Staff
near Family Court to get food. In March, the city banned outdoor meals. DAVID M WARREN / Staff (The poor gathered in February)
Posted: April 15, 2012

After announcing a ban on mass feedings of homeless people in city parks, Mayor Nutter has assembled a task force to come up with a workable plan.

The 10-member committee includes City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, administration officials, and representatives of six groups that work with the homeless. The task force will be chaired by Arthur C. Evans, commissioner of the city's Department of Behavioral Health.

Since Nutter made his decision to stop free outdoor meals last month, several organizations have voiced strong objections. Civil rights attorneys, too, have examined whether to take legal action against the city to overturn the ban.

Nutter said Friday the task force would "create a dialogue to marshal our goodwill and resources, so that we can help vulnerable, hungry people of Philadelphia in more effective ways." But in a statement, the city's goal remained the same: "to encourage people who are hungry and current outdoor servers to move indoors."

While encouraging people to move off the streets, the city temporarily will allow free meals to be handed out from a location on the northwest corner of City Hall.

Most of the meals for the poor are served near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Free Library of Philadelphia. Nutter has rejected claims that his move was related to the coming opening of the $200 million Barnes Foundation on the Parkway.

Adam Bruckner, founder of Philly Restart, who hands out dinners once a week by the Free Library, said he agreed to join the task force. "I want to represent the many advocates for the homeless and those who strongly oppose the ban on serving meals in the Parkway," Bruckner said.

- Jennifer Lin

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