HOUSTON - They’ve traveled many different roads with all of them leading to the same destination - a place called homelessness. James Kelly, 44, is no exception.
“James Kelly is a nine-year veteran of the Navy, who has fallen on hard times,” said Randall Kallinen, a civil rights attorney.
Those hard times recently got even harder, when Kelly was issued a citation as he foraged for food in a trash bin on Bagby Street.
“The mayor is shutting down feeding the homeless,” said Deborah Girton, who is also homeless.
Critics point to a city ordinance passed last summer that places restrictions on good Samaritans and how many people they can feed.
“It has created a problem for individuals like myself to go out and feed more than five people without the risk of being fined up to $2,000 or you could even be arrested,” said Shere Dore, a homeless advocate.
There’s also the struggle facing the people they’re trying to help.
“It has increased their desperation, so they’ve got to search for food wherever they can,” Kallinen said.
When we contacted the mayor’s office for a response, we were referred to HPD, which released a written statement reading in part:
“The ordinance is specific to the central business district. It is a violation for anyone to remove any contents of any bin, bag or other container that has been placed for the collection of garbage or recyclable materials.”
“I just happened to see an unopened milk carton on top of the Dumpster, so I climbed in and got it,” said Girton, “And it was fresh and it was good.”
Given the times, she says, she wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.