No Place at the Table

Across the nation, cities restrict charitable meal programs for the hungry and homeless. “As the recession and foreclosure crises drive dramatic increases in poverty and homelessness, communities should be embracing solutions to homelessness, rather than punishing people for feeding those in need.” — Maria Foscarinis

WASHINGTON, DC — The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty released a report in July 2010 that focuses on cities that have created laws, policies and tactics to limit groups from sharing food with homeless people..

The report, entitled A Place at the Table: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness, also highlights positive alternatives to penalizing food-sharing activities by charities, nonprofit agencies and volunteers.

Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the Law Center, said, “As the recession and foreclosure crises drive dramatic increases in poverty and homelessness, communities should be embracing solutions to homelessness, rather than punishing people for feeding those in need. Restricting food sharing is not a constructive approach.”

The report argues that targeting churches, service providers and volunteers by placing restrictions on providing food to homeless people is part of a broader trend toward criminalizing homelessness. Criminalization measures include city laws that outlaw activities homeless people are forced to do in public spaces because of their lack of a home or shelter, such as sitting on sidewalks and eating and sleeping in public.

These laws have been created in communities nationwide and are an ineffective response to homelessness. The report outlines how different types of laws and tactics are being used to restrict food sharing.

“The criminalization or restriction of specific activities that seek to serve people experiencing homelessness should cause any community to sound an alarm that their ability to meet the needs of those who are least among them is compromised and needs fixing,” said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

National advocacy groups argue that access to food is both a human need and right. When cities prohibit the charitable act of sharing food with homeless people, the city is hindering crucial access to food for the homeless population. City leaders must instead look towards alternatives, including working with food-sharing groups, promoting innovative programs in their communities and utilizing federal nutrition programs.

Art by Christa Occhiogrosso

Art by Christa Occhiogrosso


The report highlights food sharing restrictions in 23 communities across the country, including: Atlanta, Ga.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Gainesville, Fla.; Huntington, N.Y.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Little Rock, Ark.; Miami, Fla.; Middletown, Conn.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Portland, Or.; San Diego, Cal.; San Juan, P.R.; Sarasota, Fla.; Sultan, Wash.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Wilmington, N.C.

The full report is available online at and


Resurrection of the Poor People’s Campaign

Rev. Barber told the activists gathered in the nation’s capital that by demonstrating in solidarity with poor people, they had become a link in the long history of people who fought for justice.

Hate Crime Laws Needed to Protect the Homeless

As homelessness becomes more visible, people living on the streets are targeted for bullying, assaults, harassment and even murders.

Life Is A Precious Gift: Mother Teresa’s House in Washington

We will never know how many huge pots of soup Jacob lifted with the sisters into trucks, to take to the homeless in the park. We will never know how many diseased bodies he fed, held and bathed, and the number of tears he dried in the early morning hours.

Mother Teresa’s Gift of Love in San Francisco

She took home with her the men who had only a few days left to live and were suffering the most, and tenderly cared for them around the clock. I am certain some of the people I was meeting were angels, whose job was to make certain no soul died alone and unloved.

My Back Pages: A Song for Miss Kay

She softly sings the soul anthem “Stand By Me.” It is a song for Miss Kay, a song for all of us. Her life, with its music and joy, followed by a downward slide into homelessness and death, tells us something deeper than words about the human condition.

My Back Pages: Kerry’s Kids, An Undying Dream

Oakland pediatrician Dr. Karen Kruger said, “Kerry’s death was so sudden and seemingly purposeless and shocking that I think there was a need for people that loved her to carry on her memory in a way that she would look down on from her cloud and be happy about.”