Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hungry and outta luck in Tampa....

Put on your boots…it is going to get messy.
In typical fashion, with the big Republican National Convention scheduled for Tampa Bay next year, the basic rights of American citizens have been shoved aside in an attempt to make the picture as rosy as can be.
Im talking about a story that appeared in the paper this week, here in Tampa. It would seem that a permit is now required to feed homeless and hungry people. Can you imagine? After six years of doing good work, a married couple, Dennis and Nancy Holt, along with a loosely organized church group, have been feeding the homeless in a city owned parking lot, at 7 AM, daily, giving out bagels, OJ, coffee, and more. Now, the city says they have to secure a permit to feed human beings in need of food. The police actually moved in last weekend and shut down the Holts’ impromptu breakfast buffet. They were told they needed a permit to feed the homeless. Only one problem to that: there are no permits available to feed the homeless. Apparently it is a gray area, according to another volunteer “feeder” who was ordered to stop several years ago, and who took the issue up with the then-mayor. That mayor took it upon herself to order the police to leave the feeders alone. Now, however, it is a different mayor and a different time.
One excuse that has been put forward is that the city of Tampa has not enacted the same tough anti-panhandling laws that others have put into place, and as a result the homeless population here has swelled to large proportions. That may well be, but it does not address the simple fact that people have to eat. Not allowing volunteers to feed hungry people isn’t going to make them go away. It is just going to make them hungrier and more likely to commit crimes, or even more likely to get sick or die. The early hour that they are being fed should not have much effect on traffic, and since they are basically being handed food and beverages, and then leave, the amount of time spent on the site is minimal. PLUS it has been going on for six years with no problems. If it was anything more than bureaucratic nonsense that was getting in the way, there is a good chance that no one would even be aware of this story.
It happens all the time. A bunch of suits and big money fat cats come to a city. The city wants to put on the best face possible for the national media that follows those fat cats. Thus, the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill are scooped up, swept under the rugs, so to speak, and everything appears to be shiny and new. Except for the fact that they are still there, and out of sight, which means out of mind as well. It doesn’t matter if it is a Republican Convention, a Democratic Convention, a Shriners Convention, or any other large deal.
It is possible that someone privately will allow the Holts to carry on, on private property, but who wants the publicity or the hassles from the city?
I wonder if the city will adapt some of the signs that are all around the zoos and Busch Gardens. “Do Not Feed the Homeless”.
These are human beings. People. Hungry people down on their luck.
Shame on you, Tampa.

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