Sunday, January 16, 2011
A Houston couple spent more than a year providing freshly prepared, hot food to homeless people, many of whom are veterans, were stopped by the city for not having a proper permit.
But, Houston shut down Bobby and Amanda Herring’s “Feed a Friend” effort and city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain the needed permit.
Anyone serving food for public consumption, whether for the homeless or for sale, must have a permit, said Kathy Barton, a moron for the Health and Human Services Department. To get that permit, the food must be prepared in a certified kitchen with a certified food manager.
The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless, Barton said, because “poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care.” No homeless person has become sick from eating the couple’s food over the past year.
Mr. Herring said those rules would preclude them from continuing to feed the 60 to 120 people they assist nightly. The food had been donated from area businesses and prepared in various kitchens by volunteers or by his wife.
Because city ordinances would prevent them from obtaining the needed permit, Mr. Herring said he is hoping to find a new solution, perhaps working through a church with a permit or finding a downtown location that would allow them to continue to help the homeless.
Amanda Herring said she was frustrated at the city’s sudden stance.
“I’m just really sad,” she said. “I can’t believe for a year we were right out in the open and never had anybody tell us to leave, to stop, to tell us it was wrong. I’m blindsided with it.”
The alternative for the Houston homeless — who Kathy Barton is allegedly so worried about protecting, is forcing them to eat garbage out of dumpsters.