They began showing up at dusk last week, wandering the streets, slumped in wheelchairs and sitting on sidewalks, paper plates perched on their knees. By 6:30 p.m., more than 100 homeless people had lined up at a barren corner in Hollywood, drawn by free meals handed out from the back of a truck every night by volunteers.
But these days, 27 years after the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition began feeding people in a county that has one of the worst homeless problems in the nation, the charity is under fire, a flashpoint in the national debate over the homeless and the programs that serve them.
Facing an uproar from homeowners, two members of the Los Angeles City Council have called for the city to follow the lead of dozens of other communities and ban the feeding of homeless people in public spaces.
Should Los Angeles enact such an ordinance, it would join a roster of more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., Seattle and Orlando, Fla., that have adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict the public feeding of the homeless, according to the National Coalition of the Homeless.
There are now about 57,735 homeless people in Los Angeles County, according to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development last week, a 23.5 percent increase over last year. Only New York had a higher homeless population.
In similar news, the billionaire Mayor of New York City recently banned food donations to the homeless because the city cannot record the salt, fat and fiber content in the food.
Bloomberg, the 13th richest person in the world, also tried to implement a policy that require the homeless to prove they had no where else to go before being accepted into a shelter. Fortunately, a judge struck down the decision.