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LA cracks down on feeding homeless in public

Ed Joyce/KPCC

UCI students at the Center for Living Peace in Irvine making sandwiches for homeless people in Orange County.

According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 50,000 homeless men and women in LA County. Recently efforts to feed some of them have come under fire.

For more than 25 years, the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition has given out free meals to anyone that wants it. Their latest location feeds people from a food truck near Santa Monica and LaBrea; the organization estimates that they hand out between 100 to 250 meals a day.

Residents in the area have lobbied community leaders and local politicians to put a stop to it because of safety concerns and problems with people squatting in the area. Recently two city councilmen proposed a ban on feeding homeless people in public spaces, only allowing it in areas like homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

We reached out to city council member Tom LaBonge, one of the people behind the measure for an interview, but he was unavailable. In a written statement, he said:

My motion requests that city departments study how other cities are addressing the issues surrounding homeless feeding programs on the street. I want to know how other people ensure the safety of people being fed in the public right of way.

How do they ensure that public health codes are met? It also asks what legislative remedies are at our disposal.It is heart-breaking to see people lining up on the street to be fed from the back of a truck. I know we can do better as a city.

He went on to say that he was working with the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition to identify a permanent location for their service, but what would the ramifications be if such a ban was adopted?

For some insight, we're joined now by Jerry Jones, executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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