Feeding the homeless – our take

 

On Tuesday, July 6, 2010 a federal appeals court reversed a 2008 ruling by a federal judge in Orlando that the city’s homeless feeding rules were unconstitutional.  This means that the City of Orlando has the legal right to regulate the feeding of homeless people at Lake Eola and other city parks.

When we saw the Orlando Sentinel and other news reports, we Facebooked and tweeted the information without much comment. However, we do think a few comments from us are in order with regard to where, when, how, and how many homeless people can or should be fed in our community.

We very much understand the motivation of groups who wish to alleviate the suffering of the homeless in our community. That’s our mission every day – 365 days a year.  However, solving homelessness is about more than a warm meal and a place to sleep.  Homelessness is the symptom of a larger problem.  Individual case management is the key to helping men, women and families on the road to self sufficiency. 

We have maintained for quite some time that feeding homeless individuals at Lake Eola is a duplication of services.  Currently, there are a wide range of social service agencies in downtown Orlando which provide food, shelter and, most importantly, case management to help homeless men, women, and children.  In addition to regularly scheduled dinners at Coalition for the Homeless and Salvation Army, the Christian Service Center provides lunch through its “Daily Bread” program. 

Last year, the Coalition provided nearly 300,000 nutritious meals and over 211,000 nights of safe shelter.  Meal service is open to anyone in the community in need of food, not just residents of the Coalition.  Meals are available 365 days a year.  Also, the Coalition meets all Department of Health requirements regarding food service and is routinely inspected.

Our wonderful volunteer groups have been involved with committed meal service, in some cases for more than 10 years.  Our volunteer groups feel safe while working in the meal service program – and feel like they are making a difference in the life of a homeless individual or family.  This past year, over 215 groups donated their time and talent to our meal service program, more than 80 of them doing so on a regular basis.

It’s worth repeating that we understand the motivation of those who want to feed the homeless.  In fact, if your group wants to participate in our meal service program, please visit our website, or call 407.872.5784.

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