Task force to seek new methods for helping homeless
The homeless will get a voice in where they can eat, said a statement released Friday by the office of Mayor Michael Nutter, as the mayor announced that he had formed a task force to look into serving outdoor meals to the homeless.
“The task force will … include consumers of outdoor meals, to be identified with the help of current task force members,” noted the statement, after announcing that Arthur C. Evans, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, would chair the task force.
Other members included: Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who has spearheaded opposition to the ban; Salomon Vazquez of Connect Church; Bill McMillan with Sunday Breakfast Mission;
Bill Golderer of Broad Street Ministry; Adam Bruckner, Philly Restart; Bill Clark, Philabudance;
Jay Lewis Felton, Mt Airy C.O.G.I.C.; Joseph Rogers, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP); Joye Presson, Office of Supportive Housing; Mary Horstmann, Mayor’s Office; and Bia Viera, Philadelphia Foundation.
“I would like to thank those who have agreed to serve on the task force,” Nutter said in the statement. “This task force will create a dialogue to marshal our good will and resources, so that we can help the vulnerable, hungry people of Philadelphia in more effective ways. Our goal is to increase the health, safety and dignity of vulnerable Philadelphians.”
Hopes are that the task force will advance the conversation among food servers, the homeless, city officials and community leaders to develop a plan to encourage those who are hungry and current outdoor servers to move indoors, said the statement.
The topic of serving the homeless meals outdoors, which Nutter banned in mid-March, dominated the City Council meeting Thursday. More than 30 speakers, not all of whom got to speak, opposed the ban and asked Council to intervene.
When he announced the ban, Nutter also said the administration would come up with a new, long-term approach to feeding the hungry within 90 days. The mayor pitched the policy as one centered on public health and safety concerns, and as way to assist people needing food and shelter gain access to an array of services they might need but can’t otherwise receive.
Opponents said the ban violated their religious freedoms and civil rights.