A Philadelphia religious group served food to dozens of the city’s homeless on the Ben Franklin Parkway Saturday after an outdoor feeding ban was temporarily lifted this week.
Reverend Brian Jenkins, pastor of Chosen 300 Ministries, is passionate about what he says is his calling to feed the homeless.
“The real issue is they want to remove the eyesore of the homeless from the parkway. The city can't meet the needs of the homeless right now.”
The organization was one of four that sued the City of Philadelphia when they banned outdoor feeding of the homeless. Mayor Michael Nutter defended the ban before a federal judge Tuesday saying it was necessary to prevent food-borne illnesses and that the outdoor feedings stretch city parks' resources and make it harder for social service agencies to reach the homeless.
Under the city's plan, groups would be allowed to temporarily feed the homeless in a designated space near City Hall. That space, Nutter testified has water and public toilets and would serve as a transitional location as more homeless are directed to four private indoor feeding locations downtown.
But organizers disagree.
“Our society has built an intolerance for the homeless, and the answer is push them away, push them inside,” Jenkins said. “There is no health issue. We met all the standards the health department already required.”
One organizer, Jason Mercado, who was once homeless, says he used to take advantage of meals like this before he found a job and a place to live. He says the feedings also have a spiritual impact on the people he serves.
“It’s a chance for people to not only eat, but get a message of hope.”
Even if the judge ultimately upholds the ban, Jenkins says he is not going to stop his ministry.
“We're going to break the law, in the city's view were breaking the law. In our view it's the command of Christ.”
The judge blocked enforcement of the ban for 120 days.
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