Growing up in Philadelphia and attending high school in center city, I have witnessed first-hand the harsh lifestyles and living conditions many homeless people endure. Roman Catholic High School is located near the heart of Philadelphia; all around that area you can see members of the homeless community sleeping on metal grates in the winter because it is their only “warm shelter.” When I was at Occupy Philadelphia last fall, we agreed at one of our early General Assemblies to welcome homeless individuals into our encampment because they are part of the 99%, and it is our duty to care for these people. For some homeless individuals and families, Occupy Philadelphia helped fill a void that was present for years: we offered free food, clothing, shelter and care.
When Occupy Philadelphia was evicted last November, it was a no-brainer to give to the homeless the tents and jackets they received from their time at Occupy Philadelphia. During their time at Occupy Philadelphia, many members of the local media were taking unwarranted cheap shots at Occupy Philadelphia because we were taking care of the homeless for three straight months: the media framed it as a homeless “problem.” The media made little effort to describe the dangerous day-to-day lives many of these homeless people live. Instead the media demonized Occupy Philadelphia for our efforts and made out most members of the homeless community to be ravenous, sub-human, drug fiends that were looking for a free ride.
A couple of months ago, the Philadelphia Health Department and the Mayor’s office made a concerted effort to criminalize feeding the homeless–inside the city, by churches or concerned citizens–without a permit . There are serious moral issues with this law, but first and foremost this law is a direct shot at what the Occupy Movement stands for. This law is trying to categorize the homeless as a band of lepers, and that city government knows best how to deal with the situation. However, it does not take much to see what the City Government really cares about. They want to sweep these people back under the rug. They want to hide them from the “up and coming” areas of the city because it would be “bad for business” or “distasteful” if there was a soup line in the Rittenhouse Square Area, or other areas the City is keen on developing for those with money to spare.
On March 15th, the Philadelphia Board of Health–headed by Donald Schwarz, the very person spearheading efforts to criminalize feeding the homeless without a permit–will be holding a public hearing at the Municipal Services Building from 5:30-7:30 PM. Demonstrators will be meeting at Thomas Paine Plaza at 4PM, and will have the opportunity to register for public comments before the meeting.
Visit the Facebook event page for more info: Food is a Human Right!
I will cover this issue more extensively in the April issue of the Raging Chicken Press.
Social Media Organizer, Raging Chicken Press