Laws making it illegal to feed homeless in 33 cities must be reversed

not crime to feed homelessOn HuffPo, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz writes about the 90 year old man arrested for feeding the homeless: “Arnold Abbott in Fort Lauderdale was arrested twice for publicly helping feed the vulnerable in his community.” And adds:

Astonishingly, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 33 American cities passed new restrictions on feeding the homeless between January 2013-April 2014.

Jews are commanded against following these laws, since we are obligated to feed and tend to the most vulnerable in our midst. The Shulchan Aruch writes:

If someone comes and says, “feed me,” you don’t check him to see if he is an imposter, but you feed him right away. If there is a naked person who comes and says, “give me clothing,” you check him to see if he is an imposter. And if you know him, you give him clothing right away (Yoreh Deah, Laws of Tzedakah, 251:10).

A News.Mic article makes a good case for the fact that that, “Essentially, (the laws are) designed to make being homeless within city limits so unpleasant that the downtrodden have no choice but to leave.” And points out, “In 2011, more than 20 members of Food Not Bombs were arrested in Orlando for sharing food.”

Rabbi Yanklowitz points out:

49,000 homeless veterans on any given night, although the National Council for Homeless Veterans estimates that an additional 1.4 million veterans are at risk of becoming homelessness due to poverty and a lack of support networks. These are among the people who we are now forbidden to feed?

…Unfortunately, it was left to English actor/activist Russell Brand to put things in sarcastic perspective: “America just had midterm elections where $4 billion was spent on campaigning… But feeding the homeless? That’s illegal.”

And urges a movement to repeal the ban against feeding our nation’s homeless:

From Henry David Thoreau to Martin Luther King, America has a strong tradition of objecting and even defying laws that violate core spiritual values in manners most egregious. It is not adequate to provide meager soup kitchens that one must travel to. Many need more and find themselves so desperate that they are begging in the streets. We must respond compassionately. This law must be repealed, and the Jewish people need be at the forefront of this call to action.


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