Homeless-feeding ordinance passes in Houston; opponents vow to fight it

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by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 5:29 PM

HOUSTON—A watered-down version of Mayor Annise Parker’s plan to regulate people who feed the homeless has passed through Houston City Council.

Opponents immediately vowed to fight the ordinance in court and petition for a referendum to put the controversy before voters in November.

After weeks of controversy, what started out as a broad plan to require groups feeding the homeless to follow basic health standards evolved into what’s largely a new ordinance against trespassing.

It requires any person or group feeding more than five homeless people to first obtain permission from whoever owns the property where the food is served. It also requires permission from the city government before serving food in city parks.

The 11-6 vote came after a lengthy debate in which council members proposed a series of contentious amendments. One proposed change to the ordinance would’ve exempt churches and religious institutions, but it failed after a lengthy discussion about the definition of a "religious institution." The mayor argued the exemption would’ve drawn a distinction between "people called by God" and "churches called by God."

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