Kenney wants to drop ban on distributing food to homeless outdoors

    Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney talks about a plan to target homeless

    Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney talks about a plan to target homeless "hotspots" in the city with a corps of orange-clad outreach workers. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Four years after previous Mayor Michael Nutter sought to prohibit feeding the homeless on the Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says he’d like to abolish the ban and open an indoor center city location to provide meals for the needy.

    The subject came up Monday at a City Hall news conference where officials announced expanded outreach efforts to connect with homeless people living in the SEPTA concourse under Suburban Station and other locations.

    Brian Jenkins, executive director of Chosen 300 Ministries, which provides food to the needy, asked Kenney if he’d be willing to reverse the feeding ban.

    “I think I can, as long as I talk to my lawyers and they tell me how to do it,” Kenney said.

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    The ban that wasn’t

    The outdoor feeding ban that generated such controversy a few years ago was never enforced. A federal judge issued an injunction preventing it from going into effect, and, eventually, the city and the religious and charitable groups formed a task force to work out a plan everyone can live with.

    The result was an ongoing effort to find an indoor location the city hopes everyone who wants to provide meals can use.

    The idea is to have a place where needy people can get more than just a meal, said Eva Gladstein, deputy managing director.

    “We want to be able to connect people with needs to a full array of services, which is very hard to do if people are showing up for an hour a week standing outdoors,” she said.

    At an indoor location, Gladstein said, “They won’t be waiting outside on long lines in bad weather.”

    The tricky part is finding a site that’s available, close enough to traditional outdoor door feeding locations, and acceptable to the community hosting the new service.

    It hasn’t been easy, Gladstein said, but “we hope this summer to have that alternative meal site established.”


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