Feeding the homeless in LA

The NY Times has an interesting article today about a group of homeowners in Hollywood who are trying to stop charities from feeding homeless people in their neighborhood.

Adrian over at Curbed responded with a fairly reasonable take-down of the homeowners. After all, particularly at this time of year, it’s pretty hard to sympathize with people who are upset over the hungry being fed.

That said, I think the locals have a legitimate point. Put yourselves in their shoes: Every day, hundreds of homeless people congregate in the area immediately adjacent to their houses. These people are fed from a truck. Sure, someone picks up the trash afterward. But, where are people using the bathroom? What happens after they’re done eating?

Anyone who’s ever tried calling the police about quality of life crimes in LA knows that those kinds of issues end up pretty far down the LAPD’s list. They’re chasing murderers; they don’t have time to deal with someone pooping on your driveway.

And yet we all have a right to safe, orderly, clean neighborhoods. So, what is the city supposed to do?

The answer is that the city ought to put some sensible restrictions on free food distribution. For example: It probably ought to take place in commercially-zoned areas, as opposed to residential ones. Portapotties probably ought to be provided. And the charities involved ought to have to cover the cost of clean-up and some extra policing, in the same way that film productions do.

Obviously, it ought to be legal (and encouraged) to give away food to people who need it. However, the process of doing so ought to be designed in such a way as to minimize impact on our communities.