DON’T FEED THE HOMELESS

Tina Williams, head of Hunger Busters, the outfit partly funded by Phil Romano that feeds the homeless, is not entirely pleased with a new city ordinance that goes into effect September 1. An excerpt from a missive she just sent:

If you are feeding people in an “unauthorized zone” you’ll receive a citation up to $500. I’m still quite certain this is a democracy. It is ironic to me that Hunger Busters has been doing something the city hasn’t been able to do for practically five years now … feed hungry people. The city is now instructing us on how to run our operations. Where’s the gratitude?

Full text follows:

Dear Friends of Hunger Busters,

Here we go again! In May 2004, I spoke before City Council. My purpose, to obtain a letter on City of Dallas letterhead authorizing Hunger Busters’ commitment to feeding hungry and homeless people. Thanks to Councilman Rasansky, we were granted the letter. The letter states we are permitted to continue feeding people at locations of our choice until the city ordinance changes.

The city ordinance has changed. The new city ordinance passed on June 8th and will officially go into effect on September 1st. The “Good” is that every organization feeding the hungry and homeless must be registered with The City of Dallas and is required to obtain Food Safety Training Certification. I say “Good” because I try to find the good in everything. I can understand how this will assist the city to manage smaller groups, who are not preparing food in restaurants like Hunger Busters. It is an attempt to prevent an outbreak of food poisoning amongst the homeless community. I’ll be attending the Food Safety Training course and registering Hunger Busters on July 30th.

Here’s the Bad and Ugly bit. The ordinance was passed very much under the radar. I was actually alerted by one of our favorite customers, Kareem. He is a wonderful spokesperson for the homeless and has been involved in the Homeless Taskforce Food Provider Meetings. Lucian LaBarba, HB Board of Director and I have been attending the committee meetings since January. It was never communicated that we would have to go to specific locations. In fact, we were assured that Hunger Busters operations would not be effected. The only requirement was the Food Safety Training Certification and registration. The committee chair is Mike Rawlings who is a member of Tom Dunning’s Homeless Taskforce. Ideally, news of the ordinance passing should have been communicated to the food providers on the committee. This could have easily been accomplished via email.

There are “Public Forums” being held at City Hall, in the Flag Room this Saturday and next at 10:00 a.m. I attended the first forum last Saturday. The forum is led by Boadicea White, Director of Environmental Services. Ms. White shared with us that she would like “suggested locations” on where we would like to serve. I submitted our current locations — The Hickory BBQ Bridge on Industrial Blvd, I-45 Bridge and Coombs, The Bunkhouse at Hickory and the plaza at City Hall. She will either approve or disapprove the locations and hopefully solidify locations by September 1st. If you are feeding people in an “unauthorized zone” you’ll receive a citation up to $500. I’m still quite certain this is a democracy. It is ironic to me that Hunger Busters has been doing something the city hasn’t been able to do for practically five years now….feed hungry people. The city is now instructing us on how to run our operations. Where’s the gratitude?

You’re all aware the city feels trash is the big issue. This apparently is what has brought the ordinance about. And, I believe you’re all aware of the big picture. The City wants the homeless out of downtown pure and simple. But, where are they to go? It was suggested to Hunger Busters at one time to feed at The Day Resource Center. This is the only pseudo-city managed shelter available at the moment. I recently learned that the person who owns the building has chosen not to renew the lease to the city. Hence, The Day Resource Center will close in January 2006.

Just think of what the city could accomplish if they focused their energy on providing the new assistance center. Instead, they are interfering with Hunger Busters. We even pick up trash after we feed people. I’ll confess, the maverick in me feels very at home feeding our customers at City Hall. It’s a reminder to the “powers that be” that the city needs to provide a solution for the homeless and not just shuffle them around. As of September 1st, Ms. White stated Hunger Busters would not be permitted to serve at City Hall. And I thought City Hall was there for the public? Tom Dunning and his Homeless Taskforce Committee are doing the best they can with a massive issue. I’m impressed with the research they’ve completed to provide a first-class assistance center for the homeless. Implementation is quite another story. Until that day, we simply want to continue our mission and vision free of city bureaucracy. Our mission is to provide a freshly made meal with compassion to hungry and homeless people on the streets of Dallas. Our vision is to expand our mission throughout our nation until no neighbor is hungry.

So, that’s the city low-down from Hunger Busters HQ. Call to action….what can you do? Attend a public forum if you wish and make sure your voice is heard. Alternatively, you can contact Boadicea White, Director of Environmental Services via email [email protected] or via phone at 214-670-5122. I would also like to suggest contacting Pauline Medrano via email [email protected] Ms. Medrano is the new Councilperson for District 2 which is where Hunger Busters serves. Let them know that you applaud their efforts with registration and training. However, let’s leave out telling Hunger Busters where they can and cannot serve. It’s against our mission. We bring food to the hungry…pure and simple. We’ve been doing it without the assistance of the city for almost five years. I know everyone has busy lives but take a minute to share your opinion with the city. If you love Hunger Busters as much as I do, I know you feel just as protective. If we need to go before City Council again in August, we will. I’ve sent this email to our entire volunteer database. However, if you know of someone who would be interested in learning about this, please forward.

As always, thank you for your support of Hunger Busters.

Yours in Bustin’ Hunger,

Tina Williams
Executive Director
Hunger Busters

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