KC must put limits on feeding programs for homeless
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City’s resolve to put limits on unsanctioned aid for the homeless is appropriate for at least two reasons.
First, the city is obligated to protect neighborhoods concerned about crime, trash and other problems created by well-meaning but inappropriate efforts to give food, clothing and other assistance to homeless people.
Second, the city properly wants to encourage homeless people to visit agencies that can offer services including assistance with mental health issues, job training and finding housing. The ad-hoc feeding and clothing efforts often enable hard-core homeless residents to avoid seeking out those services.
Understandably, some people involved in faith-based groups and with some social service agencies don’t embrace the city’s crackdown, arguing that aiding the poor and destitute is part of their mission. These community outreach organizations believe that providing food, or a tarp or something else to homeless people will perhaps save a life. And no doubt many efforts do so.
At this point, however, the city needs to continue making the strong case that these activities are not long-term answers, and may unintentionally exacerbate problems.
It’s similar to advocates for the homeless often asking the public not to give money directly to the homeless because it can cause them to postpone seeking help for problems or enable the purchase of illegal drugs or alcohol.
While keeping in mind that many groups helping the homeless already act responsibly, the city should adopt reasonable rules to guide outdoor feeding programs offered by community outreach organizations. That might include limiting where they are offered and requiring that trash be picked up.
Commonsense solutions are needed to get homeless individuals the food and assistance they need on a more permanent basis. To do so likely means reducing the number of times and places where food is offered on an ad-hoc basis.
That strategy eventually could get more homeless residents to seek out the help they need to get permanent housing, the goal of all people working on behalf of the homeless.