Growing up, I’d often go on road trips with my family which prompted many drives through different cities, where I saw homeless men, women and children begging for money or food on the side of the road. Whenever we had food in the car – which we often did – my dad always rolled down the window and gave what we had to those in need to ensure they had at least some food in their stomach before the day was over. As I grew up, I made sure to continue this important tradition – to give to those less fortunate.


Unfortunately, policies about giving food to homeless people as an act of kindness are shifting in states throughout the country. In October, NPR reported that more cities are making it illegal to hand out food to the homeless. According to a National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) report, at least 21 cities have passed legislation that restricts individuals and groups from sharing food with people experiencing homelessness.


Earlier this month USA Today reported that two pastors and a 90-year-old man were arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for feeding the homeless. All three men face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine on charges they “resisted a new ordinance in the beachside city that places heavy restrictions on public food sharing.”


The new laws and arrests point out one of the most “narrow-minded ideas when it comes to homelessness and food-sharing” (NCH report): Sharing food with people in need enables them to remain homeless. People remain homeless because of a lack of affordable housing, lack of job opportunity or living wage jobs, mental health issues or physical disability, among other factors. These laws and restrictions shine light on the larger issue at hand – more needs to be done to help the homeless.


Huffington Post reported that the number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged in recent years to an all-time high of one child in every 30. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports there are 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. This needs to stop.


Prohibiting good Samaritans from giving homeless people food certainly does not solve the homelessness epidemic, but allowing people to feed them does do far more good than harm. More needs to be done to ensure that homeless people are getting the treatment they need, the food they deserve, and the help they seek.


For more information on advocating for homelessness and making a difference in the lives of the homeless visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness website your local United Way website to find out how you can get involved in raising awareness and helping the homeless.