Limits are sought on food for homeless
By JULIE DRAKE
LANCASTER — A proposed ordinance to regulate the distribution of food to people experiencing homelessness would limit distribution to an indoor setting and link such meal services to other social services to help people experiencing homelessness transition into housing and employment.
The proposed ordinance, first presented in July 2018 before the Lancaster Criminal Justice Commission, went before the Lancaster Homeless Impact Commission on Thursday morning. The Commission voted unanimously to send the proposed ordinance to the City Council.
The goal of the proposed ordinance is to move food distribution events of sidewalks and other public property where it may obstruct the free flow of pedestrian and vehicle traffic and pose a safety threat. In addition, garbage and trash
left on the public property after the distribution
“Our goal is to watch out for public safety and health and welfare of our community,” Commission Chairwoman Donna Termeer said.
According to the proposed ordinance, anyone who wishes to use space in a public park for the primary purpose of conducting a food distribution event may do so if they submit a facility rental application and the associated fee, and comply with all requirements set forth in the rental contract. In addition, the portion of the park requested to be used must be able to accommodate the water and sanitation requirements established in the state food safety requirements.
Persons who wish to distribute food would also need to obtain a valid permit from the Los Angeles County Department of Health, and comply with all applicable state and county food safety requirements, including those for nonprofit charitable temporary food facilities.
The proposed ordinance would not apply to food vendors or other food providers who contracted with, or are otherwise authorized, by the City, Los Angeles County or other public agency or authority to sell or provide food in conjunction with a City-sponsored event, farmer’s market.
Public Safety Director Lee D’Errico said the City also needs to consider the safety of the people who distribute the food, in addition to those who consume it.
Ruth Sanchez said it is their First Amendment right to share food with people experiencing homelessness.
“We share food because there’s a need for it. If the City and the county were doing their job, and they were able to cover everybody, there wouldn’t be a need for me and other people here and other organizations to do it,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez added she provides food to people experiencing homelessness who live five miles out in the desert.
“We get calls from people that are hungry that cannot get to the center where we can go. There is no transportation from five miles into the desert out. We provide food. We provide water,” Sanchez said, adding they also collect their trash.