A new ordinance in Shawnee, Oklahoma, will fine good samaritans for giving meals to homeless people — unless they have a permit.
Any person handing out food without a permit will be fined $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.
The city claimed that people handing out free food has led to trash being left for people to clean up.
“There were two and three groups coming into feed or where groups have left and left trash in the downtown area, which then either city staff had to clean up or nearby property owners depending on which way the trash blew,” said Shawnee City Manager Andrea Weckmueller-Behringer, according to a report from local station KOCO.
There will be an exception for giving out food to fewer than four people.
“Feeding operations is defined as four or more individuals,” said Weckmueller-Behringer.
Weckmueller-Behringer said that people can volunteer with the Homeless Resource Center if they really want to help.
“What we were trying to do was balance the needs of our community overall and not tip property owners and business owners against homeless neighbors because we do recognize that eating is a basic requirement,” said Weckmueller-Behringer.
People who regularly work with or volunteer to help those in need have argued that this is the wrong way to solve the trash problem.
“I thought, ‘That’s outrageous. That’s a step too far,’” Sarah Inselman, who works with the homeless community in Shawnee, told the station. “They’re humans, and they deserve to be treated like humans.”
The ordinance will go into effect on November 16, just before Thanksgiving.