A new ordinance that places guidelines on feeding Houston’s homeless and shut in went into effect on Sunday. As of July 1, 2012 the ordinance requires anyone who wishes to feed five or more homeless individuals get written permission from a property owner to do so.
According to the chomhouston.org website, there are 10,000 homeless individuals who are on the streets of Houston on any given night. More than 3,000 individuals are considered chronically homeless and more than 50% of individuals have been diagnosed with mental illness. If anyone is caught in violation of the ordinance, they face a $500 fine.
Earlier this year, Houston City Council members voted 11-6 to pass the ordinance requiring anyone who wants to feed five or more homeless individuals to get written permission from a property owner. Areas such as city parks are included. The ordinance allows the city parks director the opportunity to decide which public areas will be legal feeding venues.
With the vote having passed 11-6 earlier this year, it was Houston Mayor Annise Parker along with council members Jerry Davis, Wanda Adams, Ed Gonzalez, James Rodriguez, Mike Laster, Larry Green, Stephen Costello, Andrew Burks, Ellen Cohen, Melissa Noriega who voted in favor of the ordinance. Council members Al Hoang, Helena Brown, Mike Sullivan, Oliver Pennington, C.O. Bradford and Jack Christie voted against it.
As the ordinance is one that requires anyone who wishes to feed five or more homeless people get written permission from the property owner to do so, the measure also gives the city parks director authority to decide which venues will be legal for feeding and which will be illegal for feeding the homeless.
Upon the ordinance passing with Houston City Council, it was immediately announced that civil libertarians and volunteers made plans to launch a petition drive to have the ordinance overturned on the November election ballot.