Philadelphia’s ban on serving food to the hungry in public parks went into effect Friday. Reactions, even among the religious groups that hand out meals, are mixed.
Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries is one of the most outspoken opponents of the ban. He plans to continue serving food outdoors in spite of what he sees as an unjust edict. He has even started a fund to allow other groups to do the same.
“Anyone that gets a fine as a result of this ban, we will pay the fine as long as the money lasts,” Jenkins said.
He said they currently have about $1,500 in donations.
Jay Barbieri, an elder at liberti church in the Fairmount neighborhood, said parishioners have been instructed to comply with the city’s ban, but in letter only.
“We’ve asked our people to think of ways that they might comply but not comply,” Barbieri said. “Ideas have (included) standing in the street where your car is parked and handing out bagged lunches, that would then comply because we’re not standing in Fairmount Park.”
Barbieri said they have also considered asking to use private parking lots near Logan Square.
Others are following the spirit of the law and moving to serve meals indoors, where the city hopes the hungry will be more likely to get social services and support in addition to food.
Irene McFadden with Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in Malvern recently stopped serving food in Love Park. Volunteers moved to borrowed space at Broad Street Ministries, which opened its doors to groups looking for places to serve inside.
“We didn’t want to be civilly disobedient. We felt that that would be a wrong message for us as Christians to break the law, so we sought to find a way to work within the confines of the system,” McFadden said.
A city spokesman said three groups have served meals on the designated area outside City Hall where hand-washing stations and toilet facilities are provided, and passing out food is allowed.
Groups violating the ban will be given at least two warnings before they are issued a $150 fine.