I know that a lot of people/groups have been working diligently on collecting signatures but yet we are still more than 20,000 short. We have been taking them out on handouts and sharing them via the web and email as well but we could really use the help getting registered voters to sign before the deadline. (So print, sign, and mail it in, friends!)
Over the last two months we have continued on with our normal “routine” and haven’t had a hitch or bother from any law enforcement. We were already complying with health preparation and sanitation rules and Amy and I took it one step further and received our charitable food safety managers certificate to show the City of Houston we’re STILL doing our part. Only seven people showed in total – possibly due to the fact it’s voluntary. I’m guessing someone brought a law passed to the Mayor’s/City’s attention so legally she couldn’t force anyone to comply (there hasn’t actually been a single case of food-born illness from charitable feeding reported in Houston, ever!) – just offer food safety education. Back in ’96 the Bill Emerson Act was passed to protect us and anyone wanting to donate food: ”The law protects food donors. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 protects businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals who donate food in good faith from civil or criminal liability should such donated food later cause harm to a recipient.”~ MCFB. Now, at the class Amy and I were told by both representatives from the City of Houston and the City of Houston Health Department to continue feeding just as we do now, that no was was going to ticket or fine anyone or harass us in any way. The problem is, now, that this is quite conflicting with the actual ordinance you can read for yourself here. What is a cop going to do after July 1st, enforce the “law” or take our word for it that “those people” told us it was ok? Yeah, riiiiight. So, because of all this confusion both with what we have been told, read, and media fed, we are still at a loss. I can’t even imagine how all of this seems to those that aren’t directly involved. It’s hard for us to even explain. All I really know this is affecting us in the worst way possible. We have lost donors and are running on an empty bank account and straight out of my pocket and food/product donations from faithful volunteers. How can a non-profit operate on basically NOTHING? We had one large donation of $5,000 from the Saint Arnold Brewery back in January and a total of $25 since then. The last two years we have run (by the skin of our teeth) on roughly $13,000 to $15,000 each year and this year has been the most difficult.
As of now we have to step back from our routine and figure out how we are going to work around/with the feeding ordinance that goes in place next Sunday and how to raise funds so that we may continue to help those less fortunate in the Houston and surrounding areas. If you would like to DONATE it would be so greatly appreciated. If you have thoughts or ideas on writing grants and organizing fundraisers please email me at email@example.com so we can start planning! We’ve had an awesome run the last 2 1/2 years and I know this FAR from over, right? =)
Thank you for all of your love and support!!!
The feeding ordinance has thrown up a LOT of confusion to everyone both observing and involved.
We lost the Charitable Feeding Ordinance vote 11-6
IT IS NOW A CRIME TO HELP SOMEONE.
Now most of the original requests by the City we have absolutely no problem complying with. We already prepare our food in a certified kitchen, I have my food safety certification, and pass out food within 2 (not 4) hours of preparation (I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, none of these things are new to me). Of course we don’t want anyone to get sick. The issue here is we feed anywhere up to 500 meals in less than 2 hours to Houston’s Homeless Community (along with clothing, toiletries, resources for job assistance, housing assistance, and medical help). We also pass out trash bags and use recyclable bags to hand out our food if possible. I understand how local residents and business feel about the trash and human waste so we are doing our part to leave things cleaner than when we arrived. Now it will be illegal for us to feed any more that 5 people at a time on private property in Houston. And here’s the CRAZY part, the City in which we pay taxes for to have public roads, parks, and well, public EVERYTHING is no longer considered public but PRIVATE. We have to get permission from the City to share a meal with the homeless individual (but it’s still legal to have a bbq with our friends at said places) on the corner or at the park EVERY TIME. Not because he’s homeless but because he’s homeless on “private” City property. Or we get fined. (Last time I checked City property was public property!)
When I started Noah’s Kitchen 2 1/2 years ago it was so simple. We made some meals in the kitchen (at our house) and went driving around looking for those at corners or under bridges in need of a meal. And then we began to evolve. Finding more friends that wanted to help the less fortunate and becoming more organized. Today we have built a system where we operate under a charity status, follow feeding/health code guidelines, take demographics to better understand who/where we are serving, and do our best to not only feed and clothe, but actually HELP people get off the streets. And now that has become a CRIME. This was supposed to be easy. And now there is so much red tape just to feed someone who is hungry. Why does this have to be so difficult? The City knows damn well there is no possible way to get permission for people on the move. And never once have I seen one of these large organizations out trying to feed those that can’t get to their shelters… Oh wait, that’s what WE do.
There is a petition available to help us fight this ordinance and we really need your help. This ordinance represents the City of Houston latest attack on Houston’s homeless population, individuals, groups and organizations that feed or share food with others, and it sets the standard that public property is now private property for which you need the City’s permission to assemble. We need 20,000 signatures – please print it, sign it, have your friends sign it, and send it in to the address on the bottom of the petition!
Our awesome volunteer Chris Carmona has made both local and national news speaking on our behalf. I don’t know what I’d do without his voice, as I work full-time during all these meetings and public sessions. Thank you so much Chris!
I feel the raw story put it best though.. you should read it. =)
By the way… we’re going to fight this ALL THE WAY!
These last two months have been pretty busy for me/us.
Our February 5th handout we were joined by some very special people. Our volunteer Heather had her parents Mark and Shelly Lewis. They drove all the way from Michigan bringing a truck bed full supplies with them donated by their Church. Talking with Mark and Shelly I understood this was a big change from what they were used to seeing as Michigan doesn’t have much of a homeless problem. I wanted to put into words how this made me feel but I think Shelly’s Facebook post said it most clearly, ” Wow, what a way to round out our vacation! Mark and I just spent the morning working with Noah’s Kitchen preparing meals and taking them out into the streets of Houston to feed the homeless. What a humbling experience it was. My heart breaks for them all. The gratitude they showed with stay with me for the rest of my life. We took them clothes and gave shoes to a man who was barefoot. I’m crying as I type this because I AM SO OVERWHELMED!!!! Please be grateful for what you have and if you ever get the opportunity, do this in your town. You will not regret it and they will be more touched then you will ever know.” I know what we do is help the less fortunate but seeing how our volunteers are touched can re-inspire every time.
February 6th I had a meeting with Melany, the store manager of Starbucks in Humble who was interested in coordinating their April community/”giving back” month. We decided tot set up volunteers for our 3rd annual chili cookoff on April 15th. (Yay!)
On the 11th my fiance’ and I found out some wonderful news, we’d be adding our youngest “volunteer” to Noah’s Kitchen. We confirmed this on the 13th with my OB giving us a due date of the second week in September. <3 Pretty excited to expand our little family! A little nervous as I am a high-risk pregnancy due to my previous losses but things seem to be going well and over four months in, I’m feeling more and more positive each day.
We had our scheduled handouts of February and at the beginning of March found out some frustrating news. I’m sure if you follow us on Twitter or on Facebook you have seen our posts about the Feeding Ordinance Mayor Parker and Houston is trying to impose on us and every other small organization in Harris County. I’ve been contacted by Council Member (and lied to) and by news stations as well. I said the same thing to each of them and my feelings on this still stand, “ So after seriously reviewing said proposed “Feeding Ordinance” being voted on this Wed (3/5) It basically states we have to follow strict prepping/feeding guidelines that we can only feed on specified “health dept approved” places, at certain times, only certain parks, with approval each and every time… blah blah blah more RED TAPE… so really, we can’t feed the way we have been or even pass out meals to the homeless on the corners or under bridges (which is how we STARTED and our MISSION – reaching those who can’t get to more “known” feeding areas!) without being subject to “up to a $2000 fine” EVERY TIME. How is it that it has become IMPOSSIBLE for smaller org’s like us to help our neighbors and also become CRIMINALS IN THE PROCESS?! If this get’s passed it may shut US and dozens of other Houston organizations just like us down.” (Yes I’m very passionate about this!) Now there have been two public sessions, one vote, and we are up to have a third session and second vote Wednesday. There are close to 500 strong who openly stand against this ordinance but from the Mayor stands as of today (4/2), she feels she will win the vote. We have groups, petitions, and hundreds of people gathering to stand against this but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I’m beginning to wonder who the Mayor actually stands for and if there is something more to passing this bill. (Oh yeah, it’s MONEY.) On our last handout we interviewed several of our less fortunate friends and they gave us their feelings on the Feeding Ordinance being proposed. We’ll see how this goes. Wish us luck…