The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) released a report on Monday stating that 21 cities in the United States have some kind of restrictions in place for sharing food with homeless people. Houston, Seattle, and Salt Lake City are among some of the bigger cities with restrictions.
While most of these are in the form of legislation, there are also some areas that have community-level restrictions that are enforced by homeowners and business owners because they don’t want homeless people congregating in their areas.
It is certainly understandable that homeowners and businesses want to clean up their area. Not only do homeless people put off a bad appearance, but it is often symbolic of an area with high crime.
With that said, passing legislation to prevent people from being charitable is not only anti-freedom; it is also just plain cruel.
The government pretends to be this great protector of people and advocate of those in need. But here, as in so many other circumstances, it stands in the way of people trying to be good and charitable.
The NCH report stated, “One of the most narrow-minded ideas when it comes to homelessness and food-sharing is that sharing food with people in need enables them to remain homeless.”
If you visit a national park with a lot of wild animals, you may see signs telling you not to feed the animals. They don’t want the animals becoming dependent on handouts because they lose their ability to fend for themselves.
And while this analogy can certainly apply to humans at times, it is hard to see how preventing food sharing will actually help homeless people. It is not as if some homeless guy will just say, “oh, nobody is feeding me today, so I think I will get a job.” I suppose that is possible, but probably not likely.
Government vs. Voluntary
Of course, the main point here is that this is a case of government force versus voluntary action. You are forced to pay your taxes or else you risk going to jail. Your taxes will be directed to whatever the politicians and bureaucrats decide, whether you agree with it or not.
In the case of charity (such as food sharing), it is voluntary (or should be). If you think that a homeless person doesn’t deserve to be helped, then it is your choice not to give him anything. If someone else wants to help, they can voluntarily give their own food or money without forcing anyone else to participate.
It is ironic that some government officials would support these bans on food sharing with the reasoning that it creates dependency. That is the government’s main profession.
I would much rather see a homeless person helped and kept from starving than to see government handouts that enable capable people to buy cell phones, cable television, and alcohol while not working. Homeless people aren’t typically collecting government welfare in this manner.
It is also ironic that it is government that is creating the problem of homelessness in the first place. Many of these big cities have people living in the streets because they can’t afford to live anywhere because of rent control and strict zoning laws. And they can’t get a job because of minimum wage laws. And they can’t afford consumer goods because of taxes and regulations that add to the prices.
This is not to say that many homeless people have not made some bad choices in life. But do we need the government perpetuating the problems by making it harder to recover? Do we need the government preventing charitable people from helping them out?
The message is clear: Don’t share your food with homeless people. Instead, pay your taxes and the government will decide for you.