Nutter receives report on feeding the homeless

Posted: August 31, 2012

The task force formed after Mayor Nutter banned the distribution of free meals in city parks - most notably along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway - released a comprehensive report Wednesday that touched on myriad issues of hunger, homelessness, and "food insecurity."

As for the controversy of "outdoor feeding," the mayor said the report showed there are enough places in Center City to feed all of the needy indoors.

Nutter said he would appoint a member of his administration to take the lead in implementing the report's recommendations, which he called "a blueprint . . . for how we'll deal with these challenges."

But Nutter, saying he needed time to read the report, could not provide any specifics on what actions or resources the city would need to bring the recommendations to fruition.

"As much as I love a good report, what I really like is results," he said. "A report is only as good as the implementation."

The 10-member task force was formed in April, after a backlash from Nutter's ban on outdoor feeding. Critics accused the mayor of trying to drive the homeless off the Parkway, just as the new Barnes Foundation building was opening there.

Nutter rebutted the criticism, and the city began allowing free meals to be distributed at the north portal of City Hall. Homeless advocates also continued to give out meals on the Parkway with impunity.

In July, a federal judge sided with the advocates and blocked enforcement of Nutter's ban. The administration since appealed that ruling.

The judge encouraged the city and homeless advocates to find an out-of-court solution. Nutter would not address the legal actions at length Monday, saying he preferred to focus on the report.

The task force, chaired by Arthur C. Evans, the commissioner of the city's Department of Behavioral Health, found that between 19 and 200 people received meals outdoors on any given day.

It said Center City has 23 indoor feeding locations, serving nearly 1,900 meals a day. The organizations serving the food - primarily churches and religious groups - have the capacity to serve 50 percent more meals with more resources, the task force found.

"We believe this is a solvable issue," Evans said.


Contact Troy Graham at 215-854-2730 or tgraham@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @troyjgraham.

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