Houston, Texas (KTRK) – The group of volunteers feeding the homeless does not plan to move to where their meals are served despite receiving 29 police citations.
“Food Not Bombs” has been serving the homeless population since 1994 in Houston. For about the past 15 years, Sherry Doorr said, volunteers have based their businesses out of the Houston Public Library in downtown.
Four nights a week, they serve vegan meals at the corner of McKinney and Smith Streets across from City Hall.
On March 1, the volunteer group received its first citation from the City of Houston for violating a city ordinance.
Currently, the Volunteers have collectively received 29 citations. 10 was released for the role and is expected to garner 11th place in the Wednesday night feed.
In 2012, a city ordinance passed under former Mayor Annis Parker made it illegal for any organization or individual to sponsor or conduct a food service event on public or private property without the prior written consent of the owner of the public or private property or other individual. He has legal control over the property.”
Food Not Bombs does not have permission to distribute them outside the library. They have never been cited for violating the law.
“It’s not that I volunteered to get the ticket,” Dory said. “I’m just here. I’m going to serve, and if that means I get a ticket to serve hungry people, I’m willing to do it.”
Prior to the first citation, Dory said she received a call from Houston Police Chief Troy Fenner letting her know they would be cited if they remained at that location.
The volunteers assumed the citations were issued when they were due to the NCAA Final Four games taking place in Houston. They were surprised when they continued the tournament.
The city provided another location less than a half mile away on Reisner Street to which the volunteer group could move. The alternative is outside the Houston Police Building as the city hosts a “Dinner to the Home” program.
[دور]Volunteers with food are not bombs said as a group decided that they will not relocate and will continue taking the tickets from the Houston police.
She said the residents they serve spend a lot of time in the library during the day to escape the weather and charge their devices.
They believe moving to an alternate location will prevent disabled people from getting a meal.
Since they began receiving citations, Dorr said she has not heard of any other groups serving the homeless being cited for violating the law.
“The mayor says he’s going to continue this process because he wants the public library back,” Dory said. “We don’t serve until 7:30 (pm), and this library is already closed by then.”
The city issued the following statement:
“Recently, there has been an increase in the number of threats and violent incidents directed at visitors and staff coming to the Houston Public Library downtown. Parents and families have expressed that they do not feel comfortable visiting the library or holding special events. We want the library to be a safe and inclusive place for everyone to come and visit. That’s why we offer a dedicated alternative charity food service at 61 Riesner St. This location contains the infrastructure and facilities needed to provide services and food to Houstonians in need. By shifting food service to an alternative location, we can preserve the integrity and historic nature of the Houston Public Library while serving all Houstonians get the dignity they deserve.”
“I try to remind people often, you know, we have criminals living in homes,” Dory said. “We see this on TV every night. For him to push this information about the homeless and the library, it’s just not fair, and it adds to the stereotype that we don’t like it.”
Volunteers from Food Not Bombs began scheduling trial dates for their citations. At least two have requested jury trials scheduled for July. My league court date is Thursday. She plans to plead not guilty and request a jury trial.
“We’re here using a lot of time, resources, money, tax money, and things like that that are used on this when it’s not necessary,” Dory said.
The group also filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
Since Fenner reached out to Dory, informing her that she would be cited if they continued outside the library, she said the group had not heard from any city leaders.
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