There is extremely disturbing trend going on across the nation. Cities are passing ordinances that ban the feeding of the homeless. This is beyond amazing to think that a simple gesture of feeding someone who is in need can be an offense so severe that it might land you in the slammer. Cities such as Philadelphia, Orlando, Houston, Las Vegas, Dallas, and New York City have passed laws making it a criminal offense to give food to starving people. These regulations go against everything we are as Americans. Generosity is in no way ordered or mandatory by our Constitution or laws, and yet it is an intrinsic part of who we are as a people. And judged against to the rest of the world, the United States is unparalleled. It is estimated that 636,017 people experience homelessness in the United States on any given night and these laws banning helping them are clearly designated not with the intent of caring for the health and dignity of the homeless. So why would our governmental officials take it upon themselves to restrict this generous spirit?

Cities that have passed these ordinances (Philadelphia, Orlando, Houston, Las Vegas, and Dallas) have restricted feeding the homeless in public areas. Why? Are these regulations designed to hide the homeless in a corner and pretend that the problem does not exist in their cities? Can’t have the homeless and hungry in tourist areas, it could be bad for business. And as for New York City, this is the ultimate in nanny state. No better example of this that can be found than in what Mayor Bloomberg has forced on the hungry of New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg barred food donations to the homeless earlier this year “because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content.” Food has to meet strict guidelines for it to be donated and they actually refuse food if it doesn’t meet those guidelines. If you were to question a homeless person if they worried about the fat content of the food they were eating, it should go without saying that they would accept the threat of a heart attack in order to keep from starving to death. Could you imagine throwing away, a box of salty pretzels, right in front of someone who is starving? No, No, this food has too much salt and it’s not good for you. Please tell me how would you explain that to them? Who in city government believes that a homeless person with no access to money other than what he or she might panhandle cares about the nutritional content of food? If they are able to scrounge up a few bucks on the streets, does anyone seriously think they’re headed to a grocery store to buy carrots and celery? Any food, including “unhealthy” fast food would be their preferred choice.  Why?  Fast food is cheap and plentiful.

The only thing that is unswerving with these bans is the bureaucratic approach that rejects the notion that people can act as individuals, or as a voluntary collective, in a free society to make a difference. The Government knows what’s best for us, for the homeless, and for the city and if you stand in their way, you will pay the price. You would think that choosing to crack down on those who volunteer to feed the homeless is a bad idea. It’s an even a worse idea to seize on at a time when lots of people are hungry food pantries are stretched beyond the breaking point, and increasing numbers of Americans are subsisting on food stamps. American generosity is not dependent on the government or public policy. In fact, generosity is in America’s cultural fabric — American compassion, AGAIN is renowned. The only thing that is consistent with these bans is the bureaucratic approach that discards the notion that people can act as individuals, or as a voluntary collective, in a free society to make a difference. They know what’s best for us, for the homeless, and for the city and God help you if you stand in their way.

Our Founding Fathers issued many warnings about the dangers of growing and intrusive government, which they sought to control with the Constitution. Among the best was from Thomas Jefferson: “Most bad government has grown out of too much government.” government needs to stay out of the affairs of people helping needy people! Government these days is the exact antithesis of that. It says ‘you can’t do this or you can’t do that.’ It says ‘don’t do that, we’ll do it for you’. In these cities where it’s illegal to give homeless people something to eat, we know they are wrong. We can feel it. But if we don’t say anything, if we don’t stand up and say ‘I will not comply’ and do what is right, eventually you’ll kill off that instinct. The one thing we can all agree on: when government is telling you ‘don’t help’ — deep down it fundamentally changes us. This is the problem we’re facing today. America is great because America is good. The minute we let  regulations keep us from doing what is right — it’s over.