Since 2008 economic crisis, homelessness in the United States has been on the rise, particularly in cities and urban areas. Though most local and city governments are well-aware of the issue, many have decided to criminalize the homeless instead of working to alleviate their hardships or resolve the underlying problems which contribute to the phenomenon. Not only that, but many have also sought to criminalize those activists and good samaritans who offer food and services to the homeless when over-burdened homeless shelters and food pantries cannot.
This past Saturday, activists in Tampa, Florida experienced firsthand the unpleasant consequences of lending a much-needed hand to the local homeless community when they were arrested for offering free food in a public park. Members of Food Not Bombs, a group that shares free vegan/vegetarian meals in protest of war and poverty, had gathered in Lykes Gaslight Park to offer the homeless hot coffee and bagels as winter temperatures began to take a turn for the worse. Though there was no violence, illicit substances, or bad behavior of any kind, the gathering was considered illegal by Tampa authorities. Though it is not explicitly illegal to feed the hungry in public in Tampa, one must have a special and costly permit from the city government in order to do just that. The permit allows groups or individuals to feed the homeless twice a week, but – in addition to the cost of the permit itself – the city also demands one take out a specific insurance policy, which can be prohibitively expensive for many would-be activists.
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Being good should not require the government's permission. The people who SHOULD be penalized in this instance are those who caused US homelessness in the first place - oligarchs, bankgangsters, corporate CEOs, and their collaborators in the one percent.
But that's not likely to happen, because being bad doesn't require a permit in the US. And it's far more handsomely rewarded than being good ever has been.