A dozen people are facing misdemeanor charges in El Cajon, California for distributing food to homeless people at a public park Sunday, violating a city rule about food sharing in public places. The group was handing out food, clothes, shoes, and toiletries to the homeless to protest the city’s emergency ordinance that was enacted in response to a Hepatitis A outbreak in California.
Police officials arrived at the park and issued citations to all of the people handing out food, including a 14-year old child. Each was charged with a misdemeanor for violating El Cajon’s ordinance.
“If I’m going to be arrested for something, let it be for feeding the homeless,” said Matthew Schneck, one of the people that police cited. “I’m not going to apologize for doing the right thing.”
City authorities insist that the rule is a safety measure against Hepatitis A. However, many people believe that the decree unfairly punishes the city’s homeless.
The city of El Cajon issued the ordinance back in October, prohibiting food sharing in public spaces, including city parks. The rule comes following a public health emergency declared by the San Diego County and the State of Emergency declared by the State of California earlier last year due to the outbreak of Hepatitis A in the state.
The ordinance is only temporary, and it will be in place until the County lifts its public health emergency declaration.
With the outbreak of the disease, homeless people are most at risk of contracting the sickness, as they lack access to basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.
According to city council member Ben Kalasho, feeding the homeless at city parks is a bad idea, but there are still ways for concerned people to help the homeless.
“You can go out there, pick them up, take them back to your house and feed them and board them and room them and have them take a shower if you’re really wanting to help,” said Kalasho.