LANCASTER, Calif. - Feeding homeless people on public property may become illegal in Lancaster following a decision by the city council to revisit the matter in the coming months following an hours-long meeting Tuesday.
Two city agencies, including the Criminal Justice Commission and the Homeless Impact Commission, recommended the ordinance to City Council for consideration and adoption.
The aim was to stop individuals and groups from distributing food on public streets, sidewalks, parking lots or other public property as a way to encourage people to go to centers with permits and volunteers who can serve people indoors.
The group #SheDoes Movement strongly opposed the ordinance and staged criminalizing people for trying to do good was the best option to combat the growing homeless issue in the city.
People, including “Rocky” who had been living on the street for three years agreed.
“I think it should be left up to the people because they’re not just, you know, you get blessings and all that,” he continued. “You feel good. You’re doing something good. It’s us helping us.”
Mayor Rex Parris told FOX 11 reporter Leah Uko the goal was not to let people starve, but rather force individuals to feed the homeless in a way that wouldn’t threaten the public’s health or safety.
“We do have people defecating in the park. Our children play in that park. Our children are now exposed to leprosy, believe it or not.”
The Greater Los Angeles homeless count recorded a 2.8 percent spike in the Antelope Valley’s homeless population for the year.
Council members saw the ordinance as a way to push homeless people into centers that could provide aid with transitional housing.
It would not affect centers like Grace Resource Center, which has a permit to serve nearly 2,000 a week from its facility.
Food and Services Director, Matthew Buck stated there was a “fine line between safety and compassion.”
“I can see both sides of that story,” Buck said. “We want people to still remain compassionate, but we want it done safely as well as a community.”
Not every council member was in favor of the ordinance.
Darrel Dorris, who was sworn in on Tuesday said he felt the council could look at other alternatives rather than giving people and groups citations for trying to help those in need.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story had a misleading statement that had originated by the mayor of Lancaster leading readers to believe the Lancaster City Council had voted Tuesday night to make feeding homeless people on public property illegal.