The Lancaster City Council this week failed to pass an ordinance that would ban handing out food to homeless persons on public property. The council is scheduled to revisit the issue in six months.
The ordinance sought to prohibit individuals and groups from distributing food on public streets, sidewalks, parking lots or other public property. A portion of the ordinance reads that handing out food may “obstruct the free flow of pedestrian and vehicle traffic,” resulting in “garbage and trash left on the public property after the distribution, creating hazards to public health and visual blight.”
Both the Criminal Justice Commission and the Homeless Impact Commission endorsed the ordinance. Groups involved in food distribution are reportedly “not in compliance with statewide standards concerning preparing and serving food to the public,” according to the ordinance. As well, distribution of food is, reportedly, often conducted in locations that do not have adequate access to clean water, waste disposal and lavatory facilities which, the ordinance reads, may pose significant health and safety hazards to the persons being served as well as the public at large.
The ordinance would have allowed volunteers and groups to use space in a public park, only if the facility accords with water and sanitation requirements established in state food safety laws and regulations. If groups wanted to serve food to homeless persons, they would have been required to hold a permit from the Los Angeles County Health Department and comply with all state and county food safety requirements.
The homeless population in the Antelope Valley has grown by about 2.8 percent to 3,293 persons, compared to last year, based on data from the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.