Group pushes for petition to allow feeding of the homeless

A group in Houston is pushing against a city ban on feeding the homeless. They said they hope a new petition will allow people to once again give food to the needy.

HOUSTON--There's a lot of homeless people hanging around downtown, and folks like Jay Hamburger offering them a free meal.

"It's my role in the world to help other people in ways that I can," said Hamburger, who's been feeding the homeless for more than two decades.

But these days, he said he's also dodging the law.

"The city has criminalized feeding the homeless," said Hamburger.

At issue is the city's "charitable feeding ordinance" adopted more than 3 years ago. It requires that food givers obtain a permit and permission from private property owners under the threat of a 500 dollar fine.

Hamburger said the ordinance has turned people like him into renegades, without a permit but still feeding the homeless randomly beneath bridges and in open fields.

Last month, attorney Randall Kallinen began an on-line petition opposing the ordinance. He's already collected more than 30 thousand signatures.

"This is another important tool we can use to show that this is an important thing," said Kallinen. "A lot of people are against it."

But property owners like Rick Cilurso, not only support the ordinance but believe it should be strengthened.

"They leave all their trash behind," said Cilurso. "They have no place to go to the restroom. They urinate all over the property. It's horrible."

Backers of the petition hope city leaders will consider eliminating the restrictions. But they could be in for quite a fight.

"They shouldn't do away with it at all," said Cilurso.


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