"Classic fascism": Food Not Bombs Houston volunteers fined for feeding hungry people, sparks outrage online

Netizens are furious over Food Not Bombs getting fined for feeding homeless people. (Image via Evan Garcia, Getty Images)
Netizens are furious over Food Not Bombs getting fined for feeding homeless people. (Image via Evan Garcia, Getty Images)

Food Not Bombs, a volunteer group from Houston, Texas, that has been providing food to homeless people outside the Houston Public Library for over a decade, is facing a fine of around $23,500 by the local law.

In a video shared by @TizzyEnt on X (formerly Twitter) on August 30, a woman was recorded saying that they have been criminalized for sharing food with hungry people. She continued that they received 49 tickets and showed the 50th, which she claimed was her first ticket.

The woman shared that they had been getting these tickets for several months. She asked viewers if anybody would like to volunteer for the group to help homeless people. She also informed viewers that they start serving at 7:30. Netizens were furious at Houston authorities for fining the group. One user called it "classic fascism."

Internet is furious as Food Not Bombs get fined for feeding hungry people

People online expressed their disappointment with Texas's laws that don't allow volunteers to help those in need. The law there was criticized, and netizens demanded how feeding homeless people could be a crime. Several people shamed Houston and Texas and called this new ordinance "crazy."

Houston Police threatened to arrest Food Not Bombs volunteers

On Food Not Bombs' website, the group wrote that within a week, their volunteers had received $250 to $10,000 in fines. They claimed that the Houston Police Department and Mayor Sylvester Turner have ticketed the group based on a Charitable Feeding Ordinance that was issued 10 years ago but has never been enforced before.

The Houston Police Department also allegedly threatened to arrest volunteers if they didn't move their location. Food Not Bombs stated that the new place offered by the Mayor is not safe for homeless people.

The group quoted one of their volunteers who was ticketed on January 3, 2023:

"In the decade since the city passed this unjust ordinance [Charitable Feeding Ordinance], they’ve never demonstrated any reason or benefit for having it. My understanding of the law tells me this ordinance is unlawful. My personal beliefs tell me it is immoral and unjust."

The ordinance was enacted in 2012, and it bars organizations and people from hosting events or shelters where free food is given to five people or more on any private or public property. It further demanded approval from the owner of the property where the event is to be hosted.

When the mandate was passed, former Mayor of Houston, Annise D. Parker, designated the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza in front of the Houston Public Library to the volunteers of Food Not Bombs. The group was legally allowed to provide meals there.

The group hosts their food-serving event four times a week after the library's opening hours. However, in recent times, city authorities have reported increased cases of harassment outside the public library due to the meal donations. Officials said they would issue tickets to the group until they moved their meal donations somewhere else.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said that Houston was not opposed to organizations feeding homeless people. However, he said, the meal donations at the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza were discouraging visitors to the public library. He said that after the donations end, the homeless people camp around the library and stay there.

To avoid the situation, the city has started funding food donations through a different charity group at the parking lot of a jail and a courthouse, located about half a mile from the public library. They also invited Food Not Bombs volunteers to serve food there.

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Edited by Shreya Das
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