Texas Charity Workers Have Been Ticketed For Feeding The Homeless More Than 40 Times — For Up To $2K Each Time

Since when is helping people living on the streets a crime?

texas volunteers getting ticketed for feeding the homeless @foodnotbombstx / TikTok

There are many reasons why the United States has one of the world's worst problems with homelessness — including, apparently, volunteers being harassed by police for trying to help. 

A Houston, Texas charity group is drowning in fines after being targeted by police for trying to alleviate their city's homelessness problem, and it's left people both in Houston and online understandably outraged. 


Volunteers from Food Not Bombs have been ticketed for feeding the homeless more than 40 times this year so far.

Food Not Bombs is a long-standing organization in the fight against world hunger formed in 1980, and its Houston, Texas chapter has focused much of its efforts on feeding the city's homeless population, setting up vegetarian food distribution events four days a week for roughly the last 20 years. 

But lately, they've been met with a new set of obstacles — not logistics or a lack of funding, but rather being targeted by the Houston Police with scores of fines, some as high as $2000 each, for feeding the homeless in public areas like parks and outside the cities main library and city hall.


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Food Not Bombs volunteers have racked up more the 40 of the tickets just since March 1, with fines totaling more than $10,000, and members of the group are beginning to fight back.

Volunteers are being ticketed for feeding the homeless because of a little-known 2012 ordinance that has not been enforced until recently. 

In 2012, the Houston City council passed an ordinance forbidding people from giving away food in public unless the owner of the land on which they're doing so gives them permission, even if the property is public like the locations Food Not Bombs uses. But the ordinance has rarely been enforced since it was passed over a decade ago, until this year.


Food Not Bombs has posted numerous videos to TikTok showing Houston Police citing them for their charitable actions and attempting to intimidate them at their food distribution events. 



"They don't like us sharing food in front of the library," a volunteer reported in a recent video in which police can be seen hovering in the background, presumably waiting to cite them. "On average, we feed over 100 people," the man filming the video reported, "and they just sit out here and stare at us for the whole hour it takes to assemble the food... and then they ticket us."

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But being ticketed for feeding the homeless has not stopped Food Not Bombs — in fact, it's done just the opposite.

According to The Houston Chronicle, the Houston Police's campaign of citations has nearly doubled the number of Food Not Bombs' members who have been showing up to help the homeless at its food distribution events. "It seems like more and more these days, society is clamping down on the poor," volunteer Shere Dore, who herself has been ticketed 11 times, said of the citation campaign.



She and others are not backing down. The city of Houston has allowed food to be distributed to the homeless in a parking lot by a police building, which the city's mayor says is an effort to help sign unhoused people up for additional services.

But volunteers and homeless people themselves say they feel it is merely a tactic to keep homeless people out of sight. And they are starting to fight back against the police's ticketing campaign in more ways than just defiantly continuing to show up and hand out food.  


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One Food Not Bombs member has filed a federal lawsuit over being ticketed for feeding the homeless. 

Houston Food Not Bombs Franklin Craft-Rendon has had enough of the harassment he says he and his fellow volunteers are facing. After being ticketed in March, he filed a federal lawsuit over the citation, claiming the ordinance and its enforcement constitute a free speech violation.

The city has countered that the ordinance is part of its duty to ensure "food safety," and also claims citizens have complained about safety concerns pertaining to Food Not Bombs' food distribution at public locations like Houston's city hall. 

Craft-Rendon says that is nonsense because Food Not Bombs has been distributing food there for more than 20 years without any pushback until this year.


The campaign against the group has outraged people on social media as well, including an attorney on TikTok with an idea for how Food Not Bombs should fight back.



"Set all of your cases — all of your cases — for jury trial. Let the citizens come and hear from those police officers and judge for themselves," attorney Maverick Ray said. "I just find it hard to believe that the citizens are really going to be okay with [the police's ticketing]," he continued.

Local unhoused woman Marian Dansby, who regularly takes advantage of Food Not Bombs' generosity, agrees. "Why fight over this?" she told the Chronicle. "This is what people are supposed to do."


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.