“Do you have a permit for that?” — feeding the homeless in Houston

From Chron.com:

“Bobby and Amanda Herring spent more than a year providing food to homeless people in downtown Houston every day. They fed them, left behind no trash and doled out warm meals peacefully without a single crime being committed, Bobby Herring said.

That ended two weeks ago when the city shut down their “Feed a Friend” effort for lack of a permit. And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one.

“We don’t really know what they want, we just think that they don’t want us down there feeding people,” said Bobby Herring, a Christian rapper who goes by the stage name Tre9.

Anyone serving food for public consumption, whether for the homeless or for sale, must have a permit, said Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department. To get that permit, the food must be prepared in a certified kitchen with a certified food manager.

The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless, Barton said, because “poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care.”

Bobby Herring said those rules would preclude them from continuing to feed the 60 to 120 people they assisted nightly for more than a year. The food had been donated from area businesses and prepared in various kitchens by volunteers or by his wife.

He and his wife became involved in the effort several years ago, when she would take leftover food from work to the homeless downtown. From there, it expanded into a full-time effort for her working through Eyes on Me, the Herrings’ nonprofit organization that focuses on Christian-themed youth outreach efforts.

Nearly every day last year, they distributed food prepared or donated by volunteers or local stores at 6 p.m. at the corner of Commerce and San Jacinto, near the Harris County Jail, Bobby Herring said.

Looking for new solution

On Nov. 8, they were approached by Houston police officers and asked to provide food at another location under an overpass at Commerce and Travis streets adjacent to Buffalo Bayou, he recalled.

They were happy to move to the new location and continued to provide food there until Dec. 30, when a park ranger and two police officers told them they would have to stop until they could obtain a permit.

Because the new area to which they had moved is on city park land, they need permission and permits from both the parks department and health department.

Because city ordinances would prevent them from obtaining the needed permit, Bobby Herring said he is hoping to find a new solution, perhaps working through a church with a permit or finding a downtown location that would allow them to continue to help the homeless.

Amanda Herring said she was frustrated at the city’s sudden stance.

“I’m just really sad,” she said. “I can’t believe for a year we were right out in the open and never had anybody tell us to leave, to stop, to tell us it was wrong. I’m blindsided with it.”…”

Read it all on Chron.com


Filed under News

3 responses to ““Do you have a permit for that?” — feeding the homeless in Houston

  1. thebovine

    It’s hard not to see this as another skirmish in the ongoing class war.

    • AJ


      In the year 2010, the Lord came unto Noah,
      who was now living in Canada and said:
      “Once again, the earth has become wicked and over
      -populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me.”
      “Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing
      along with a few good humans.”
      He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:
      “You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will
      start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”

      Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah
      weeping in his yard – but no Ark.
      “Noah!,” He roared, “I’m about to start the rain!
      Where is the Ark?”
      “Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have changed.”

      “I needed a Building Permit.”

      “I’ve been arguing with the Boat Inspector
      about the need for a sprinkler system.”

      “My neighbours claim that I’ve violated the
      Neighbourhood By-Laws by building the Ark in my
      back garden and exceeding the height limitations.

      We had to go to the

      Local Planning Committee for a decision.”

      “Then the Local Council and the Electricity Company demanded a great sum of money for the future costs of moving power lines and

      other overhead obstructions, to clear the
      passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I told them
      that the sea would be coming to us, but they would
      hear nothing of it.”

      “Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban
      on cutting local trees in order to save the Greater Spotted Barn Owl.”
      “I tried to convince the environmentalists that I
      needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!”

      “When I started gathering the animals the SPCA took me to court. They insisted that I was
      confining wild animals against their will. They
      argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and
      it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in
      a confined space.”

      “Then the Environmental Agencies ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.”

      “I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the
      Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I’m
      supposed to hire for my building crew.”

      “Immigration are checking the
      visa status of most of the people who want to work.”

      “The trades unions say I can’t use my sons. They
      insist I have to hire only union workers with
      Ark-building experience.”

      “To make matters worse, the Revenue Canada seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally
      With endangered species.”

      “So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10
      years for me to finish this Ark.”

      “Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine,
      and a rainbow stretched across the sky.”

      Noah looked up in wonder and asked,
      “You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?”

      “No,” said the Lord.
      ” The Government beat me to it.”

  2. AJ

    I am no longer surprised by anything! Birds falling dead out of the skies. Farmeres & civilians harassed by authorities. And, now the homeless are under attack. I hope that the saying is true “It is alway darkest before the dawn”. I also hope that it is the time of the Lord’s return. After which these scum bags that are currently trying to overtake our lives can have the world they are trying to create.

    Let the creator of this universe dole out His justice if this is to be the case.

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