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Liberalism hurts the homeless in Houston

Next time a progressive wants talk about teachable moments, show him or her this piece... the lesson to learn here is obvious:

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.

We should all be frustrated by this level of bureaucratic meddling, meddling getting in the way of helping those these bureaucrats claim to be wanting to help.  Here's hoping these kind hearted folks find a way to work around the idiots attempting to prevent them from fulfilling their God given mission.


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Comments (22)

I hope they do get the Perm... (Below threshold)

I hope they do get the Permits and are incorporated. This would be for their protection. You might have someone that looks a free meal as lottery ticket and without all the verification it tale what little these people have.

That being said I think if they are doing a good job maybe the city can provide an accommodation where the food is prepare. They might be able to use city kitchen in public private solution to the problem. This would fully utilize an under utilize city resources.

Yes, there is no logic, non... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Yes, there is no logic, none at all, to the requirement that food for public consumption be prepared in an approved facility. Or to the proposition that this is even more important to the homeless, who are more vulnerable to foodborne illness and less likely to have access to healthcare. Silly fuzzyminded liberals!

I had a flashback to my you... (Below threshold)

I had a flashback to my youth in Tampa, Fl during WWII. It seemed that nearly every street corner in, and around Ybor City, had a vendor selling deviled crabs from a portable stand. My Mother and Aunts used to laugh and speculate about under what conditions those crabs were prepared, as they happily consumed them.

I guess in those days Government had more important things to do than play Nannie to the citizens.

These kinds of laws walk a ... (Below threshold)
James H:

These kinds of laws walk a tightrope. There's a fine line between laws designed to protect the public health and laws that are designed to provide business for certified kitchens and certified food managers.

Several thoughts occur to me on this particular issue:

First, as their operation grew, these people, however good intentioned, should have taken the time to keep themselves apprised of the local laws.

Second, I'm not sure this particular permitting regime really benefits the public. I would think that a law combining surprise inspections with a liability-insurance requirement would be sufficient.

Third, in this kind of situation, it's in everybody's interest to reach an accommodation. I'm disappointed that one wasn't reached here.

While I applaud their good ... (Below threshold)

While I applaud their good intentions, I've witnessed first hand some of the 'consequences'. Years ago we had a local Christian Brother who'd learn who in the community needed help with food or clothes. He'd go around collecting donations and make the deliveries.

Then some 'do-gooders' convinced him to 'expand', and provided a home in a residential area. And every BUM within 100 miles started showing up for "free food". We were running into "the homeless", who asked where "Brother XXX's place" was. And the folks who lived in adjacent homes started reporting break-in's, drunks pissing on their lawns, sleeping the the bushes.....you get the picture.

The place was closed down and they moved to an industrial area. And then the surrounding businesses began making the same complaints. Seems the 'do-gooders' were all about helping others, but damned short on policing the people they served.

Every winter we go thru the same crap about 'winter shelter for the homeless'. Everybody thinks it a good idea, AS LONG AS IT'S NOT NEAR THEM.

Bruce:Far better t... (Below threshold)


Far better they not be fed at all than be fed without official approval, right?

Tell me - you ever have friends bring over food, say for a pot luck dinner? Do you insist they show health certifications before you dig in? When you go to parties over at other people's homes, do you insist on seeing inspection certificates before you eat anything that might have been sitting out too long?

Don't you think that these people, doing it out of the charity of their own hearts, would have an incentive to make sure that their meals are wholesome, and would discard anything they thought was iffy?

Seems like your 'compassion' for the homeless is getting in the way of their getting fed. It would have been much more impressive (and far less newsworthy) if the folks who insisted they have permits actually helped them get the permits they needed, instead of insisting on following the rules and denying them permits.

Over the years I've noticed there's two types of bureaucrats. One goes "You can't do this, and here's why" - and that's the limit of their 'help'. The other goes "You can't do this, and here's why - and if you go ahead and change this, that, and do these three things you'll be in compliance and can start up again. Let me write out what you'll need to do..."

Sadly, there's a hell of a lot more of the former than the latter.

Folks, I have to agree with... (Below threshold)

Folks, I have to agree with Bruce on this one. I've had to provide public health inspections, been trained in the particulars of food storage, preparation and delivery sanitation, and seen the results of when these regulations are ignored or subverted. Its not pretty. Very well-mwaning and otherwise intelligent people can poison and threaten the health and welfare of hundreds of people with their actions. City permits, while by no means a perfect method, are part of the current way our public health is maintained. If there is corruption in that system, it needs to be routed out, but that does not mean the system is wrong.

If these people were handing out food to a dozen or less folks I doubt this would have been given any attention at all by the authorities. Once they got into being a large distribution center, they have the RESPONSIBILITY to do so safely and following the local public health guidelines. Failure to do so is in the same ilk as creating a health care reform bill without reading it and understanding all of its ramifications before you pass it.

At least they did not bulld... (Below threshold)

At least they did not bulldoze a homeless community to build a presidential library or something. Now that would be unthinkable.

I'm going to side with epad... (Below threshold)

I'm going to side with epador and GF, which I suppose means standing on the same side as Bruce (sigh).
I'm in a charitable fraternal group, and we do food baskets and food trays throughout the year. There is a lot of stuff that our members and local church goers bring in that we have to throw out because it won't store/keep properly, or won't travel well.
I think Houston's regulations have a lot to do with giving work to the right people as James said, but there does need to be independent inspection of food and how it's prepped and stored. $10 says the definition of certified food manager involves union membership or another permit renewed quarterly or yearly for a fee that is just high enough make you think twice.
As for location... we would all like to think that the people these kitchens server are just having a bad run of luck or are the victims of circumstance. The truth is, most are chronic losers that have given up on themselves when they hit bottom, or haven't admitted they are at the nadir. You have to help them all to get help to the ones that are willing and able to save themselves. Putting a half way house or a soup kitchen in a permanent location is setting up a beacon, and it will attract all varieties. But the least desirable will stay longest, come most often and as GF said, make the largest impact on the neighborhood.

Good points JLawson. In fa... (Below threshold)

Good points JLawson. In fact I would argue that the food they were serving was probably much safer than what one would find in the local fast food joint(anyone who has worked in one will probably agree with me).

Do you haff your paperssss?... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Do you haff your paperssss?

The food served probably be... (Below threshold)

The food served probably beat whatever the homeless were getting out of the dumpsters behind the hamburger joints, pizza parlors and local grocery stores.

Liberalism = fascism.... (Below threshold)

Liberalism = fascism.

Brucie Henry would have ben... (Below threshold)

Brucie Henry would have ben a good little Brownshirt in the day.

Government supervision has ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Government supervision has certainly done a bang-up job of insuring clean/safe food thus far hasn't it? I mean, it's not like we routinely hear about outbreaks of salmonella, e-coli, or similar contamination, right? And the health food scores for local restaurants, especially Chinese, really reflect wholesome goodness. It's a good thing the all seeing, all knowing, all powerful State has our backs. I feel better all ready.

Nobody is kidding anybody h... (Below threshold)

Nobody is kidding anybody here. The Houston folks shut the feeding progran down so the "homeless" will leave. The next step will be Greyhound tickets to LA or San Francisco.

Its not the liberals job t... (Below threshold)

Its not the liberals job to protect the homeless. Now if they were in a union or something, maybe.

Excuse me, but what evidenc... (Below threshold)
Dodo David:

Excuse me, but what evidence is there that the above-mentioned story pertains to liberalism?

The last time that I checked, conservatives want people to abide by the rule of law.

Bobby and Amanda Herring had good intentions, but they were providing food to the general public without safeguards, which is what the rule of law provides.

Also, what prevents Bobby and Amanda Herring from joining forces with an established soup kitchen? The Herrings could continue their ministry through the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen, which has been feeding Houston's homeless since 1968.

If the Herrings simply want to feed the homeless, then they shouldn't mind being part of a larger organization that does the same thing.

The last time that I che... (Below threshold)

The last time that I checked, conservatives want people to abide by the rule of law.

Sensible laws. Sane laws. Not, for example, a law that requires people to show fifteen forms of ID before withdrawing money from an ATM, or require them to paint themselves with woad prior to visiting a public library. You could (possibly) get those laws passed if you stuck them in other legislation (in fact, they might even be in the Obamacare bill for all we knew - since Pelosi said we needed to pass it to see what's in it) but how many people would realistically pay attention to them?

In this case, does the law interfere with feeding the hungry? Then instead of going 'You can't' and leaving it to the people involved to figure out what to do next, the solution might have been to go "You can't do it THIS way - but if you do this, and this, see these people for certification, then call these folks who might know of a kitchen you could rent, you could comply with the law." Help them comply while keeping people fed - that'd do more good for the needy than shutting down the program because of fears of food poisoning.

It's good to have laws. It's bad to look at laws as being the end, instead of a means to those ends.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a conservative, a Republican. Yet he was a determined lawbreaker, because the laws at the time were wrong. Would you have maintained he needed to comply with the laws we now find abhorrent?

Eating out of dumpsters or ... (Below threshold)

Eating out of dumpsters or going hungry is so much better for them. Then they can run down to some kids lemonade stand and get a drink (they did WHAT......?) Honey? Check the government schedule and see if it is ok if I take a leak today.

I am skocked at how those ... (Below threshold)
Marcus Author Profile Page:

I am skocked at how those who are doing nothing can so easily stop those who are trying to do good. Think for a minute people! My should you have to have a permit to help somebody who is starving! Its easy for someone who eats everyday to make rules like this. See you on judgementday people!

I am skocked at how those ... (Below threshold)
Marcus Author Profile Page:

I am skocked at how those who are doing nothing can so easily stop those who are trying to do good. Think for a minute people! My should you have to have a permit to help somebody who is starving! Its easy for someone who eats everyday to make rules like this. See you on judgementday people!






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