Thursday, May 15, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Years ago, when living in California, I was on my way to the grocery store one afternoon, and as I pulled into the parking lot I saw a family of four — Mom, Dad, two small children — looking rather scruffy, with Dad holding a sign that said “Will Work For Food.”

Now, I didn’t have any work for them, but inside the store, I went to the deli and bought sandwiches and sodas, bought my own groceries, paid for it all and stepped outside; I put my stuff in my car and then carried the sandwiched to the family on the corner and offered them to them. The Dad looked at me and said, “We’d rather have the cash.”

So, it wasn’t really “Will Work For Food” it was “Give Me Money.” I set down the sandwiches and drinks and left. I hated being snookered like that. Don’t tell me you’re hungry and when I offer food say you want money. 

Later that same week I read a story in the local paper about the homeless people that stood at the bottom of the freeway off-ramps in downtown Sacramento asking for spare change. The paper interviewed one of the ‘homeless’ men who said he sometimes made $2oo a day, and would take his change, buy himself a meal, and then sleep in one of the semi-nice motels downtown, and then do the same the next day.

It makes you think twice about giving a handout, but what about giving a handout and then being fined for it?

In Daytona Beach, Florida, Chico and Debbie Jimenez made a habit out of handing out food to the homeless and the poor because their feel it’s their religious duty. The couple runs a Christian outreach group, Spreading the Word Without Saying a Word Ministry that gives food to the needy every week.

And every Wednesday, regular as clockwork, Chico and Debbie Jimenez feed more than a hundred people a lunch of chicken patties, macaroni salad, and fresh vegetables; the meals are funded by private donations and staffed with volunteers. Is that so wrong?

Yes, because Daytona Beach is one of a handful of cities that enacted ordinances that ban individuals from serving food in public and so last week a half-dozen police officers showed up where the Jimenez’ were serving lunch and cited the couple and all of the volunteers.

Chico and Debbie, along with four volunteers, were each given multiple 2nd degree misdemeanor citations with individual fines of $373 per person, $2,238 for the group. The police also permanently banned the couple and their volunteers from the park.

For feeding the needy.

Police Chief Mike Chitwood:
“The ordinance is there, so if we catch you, we’re going to cite you. If you want to feed people, and you want to do a good, Christian act, we encourage you to coordinate with the social service agencies.”
All well and good, I guess, but what’s worse, feeding hungry people or fining people who feed the hungry?

Chico and Debbie plan to challenge the citations rather than pay them.
“We are ‘NOT Criminals’ and feeding ‘Hungry folks’ is not a crime.”
At least it shouldn’t be a crime.


MAC said...

WOW! I can't believe the response you received from offering a homeless family food. I have a soft spot as well, and give change to the homeless... Hubby gives me a hard time about it. I'm a strong believer in Pay It Forward and putting the Give It Back vibe out into the world. Call me crazy.

Helen Lashbrook said...

Man's inhumanity to man appals me. Did someone make a complaint? If not why couldn't the cops have ignored an unpleasant by-law?

the dogs' mother said...

I'd rather the city put their money towards the ongoing work to cure addiction.