Volunteers feeding homeless sue Portland over parks policy

Civic Affairs

The volunteers are being represented by a non-profit law firm

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group of homeless advocates is pushing back top stop new Portland city rules that require permits to serve food in parks with a lawsuit announced on Wednesday by the Oregon Justice Resource Center.

Groups gathered at 20 different parks throughout the city to feed the homeless on Friday—something they said should not be restricted by city policy. In October, Portland city leaders announced a new rule that requires people to have insurance and apply for a permit to hand out food to the homeless.

“This is pretty alarming on a human level,” said A.J. Mendoza, an organizer with Portland Jobs with Justice. “There are people who are hungry and need food.”

A sign for free food. November 29, 2019 (KOIN)

If a group applies 30 days before an event, the normal $138 application fee will be waived. The new policy also limits service activities like handing out food to one activity per park, once a week.

“We are just taking care of people who are less fortunate,” said Free Hot Soup organizer Samantha Bailey. “Making it harder, putting us in position to jump through bureaucratic loops.”

The city sees these changes differently. Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the parks said they are working to educate people on the new rules. Currently, there is no timeline on when they will go into full effect.

“We are grateful for organizations that provide food to the hungry,” said Fish. “This is meant to reduce barriers by waiving fees and allowing scheduling through the year.”

A group of volunteers, including plaintiffs from Free Hot Soup and Help 4 Houseless, is suing the city over the changes, calling them unconstitutional. They are represented by the non-profit law firm OJRC. When asked, Fish said he could not comment on the lawsuit as the city had not yet been served.

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