Doesn't asking for permission to feed the needy feel a little off, like asking to go to the bathroom or to eat lunch? When communities tell adults they can't do things like hand out food in a public park, as Las Vegas did to activist Gail Sacco four years ago, it's pretty short-sighted. If municipalities can't feed everyone, why should they begrudge average citizens for picking up the slack?
The government should help us when we're down and keep people from doing bad things, not make it harder to provide charity for people who've, ahem, dropped straight through the tattered social safety net.
In an agreement reached last week in Las Vegas, a city lawsuit will be dropped against Sacco for feeding more than 25 people in a park, and she will drop a federal suit against the city for infringing on her personal freedom. In what both sides are calling an acceptable compromise, 75 people can now gather, and eat, before being hassled or cited by authorities.
Granted, what police officers are going to patiently count 73 ... 74 .... 75 ... before pouncing when the 76th person joins the picnic? And unfortunately, public feedings have a way of drawing out previously invisible people in need. Next time Sacco hosts a feeding, will she have to pack up and drive away as soon as 76 hungry people show up?
The city's ban on public feedings was overturned in the courts in 2007, but it continued to criminalize the act with trespassing charges. Trespassing in public parks — go figure. How the new agreement plays out remains to be seen, but for now, the city got to save face while common sense won out: yes, you can feed people who are hungry.
Photo credit: Diane Worth