Homeless feeding ban goes into effect Friday

Bob Franklin, 48, has lived at Logan Circle for two months
Bob Franklin, 48, has lived at Logan Circle for two months
Posted: May 31, 2012

Shawn Green sat in Logan Square Wednesday afternoon across the street from Family Court snacking on a bag of cereal.

"Watch your step over there," Green said pointing to a grassy area, "stepping in human s--- is outrageous."

Institutions in the area have complained to the city about public defecation, urination and littering, some of which they say happens most when groups hand out free food to the homeless and hungry along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Those feedings will come to an end Friday as a ban Mayor Nutter announced in March on outdoor feeding in city parks will go into effect. Nutter has said the hope is to encourage more indoor, safe and healthy eating.

"Our position has always been that something needs to be done to help these men and women who are homeless and that help doesn’t come from just feeding them haphazardly along the parkway or in any other part of the city," said Monsignor Arthur Rogers, of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul across from Logan Circle. He added that some people use bushes, trees and walls for bathrooms. "The feeding going on now, outdoors, is not showing them that respect."

Cots, luggage, clothes, sheets and a flipped-over shopping cart lined a gate in Logan Square.

"We experienced the long lines and littering," said Free Library spokeswoman Sandy Horrocks. "Customers found it difficult to come into the library."

Rogers and Horrocks said the homeless are welcome to use the church and library facilities and often do.

Green, 49, who has accepted free meals, looked forward to eating indoors because he believes it would be cleaner. But Bob Franklin, 48, who has lived in the park for two months, was not happy.

"You take away the blessings that is given to these people who don’t have," Franklin said.

Signs were posted prohibiting outdoor feeding. Repeat violators are subject to $150 fines. Recently, the Board of Health issued new guidelines for those who provide free food.

The city has tried for years to tackle the issue. Nutter has said the ban, which angered homeless advocates and other outreach groups, has no connection to the recent opening of the new Barnes Foundation.

"There are indoor food service operations serving lots of people," said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald. "Anybody who wants to, feels compelled to serve outside, can do so just not on parkland."

Meanwhile, 20 people had signed up to speak about the ban at a City Council hearing Thursday at 1 p.m. sponsored by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, a vocal advocate for the homeless. Blackwell said she’ll ask Nutter to stop the ban until an alternate plan is established that’s "fair to everybody."

Contact Jan Ransom at 215-854-5218 or Ransomj@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jan_Ransom.

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