Public Safety Debate
5:00 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Olympia Wages Food Fight, Bans Group From Feeding Homeless

Olympia resident Ben Charles, of Crazy Faith Outreach, has been serving food to the homeless in an Olympia parking lot for nearly three years. Now the city has banned the group, citing public safety concerns.

But Charles and his team aren’t going without a fight. 

“We have the same right to use that location as anyone else,” Charles said. “We are motivated by our faith to serve those that can't serve themselves. There should be nothing wrong with serving and helping the most vulnerable people in need. “

Charles said he had checked with the city, and that he does not believe they are breaking the law.

But Tim Hill, a building official with the city, told The Record’s Ross Reynolds on Friday that the problem is congestion. He said he’s seen people darting into moving traffic, endangering themselves and drivers.

Charles doesn’t buy it and says that the safety claim is a cover for deeper prejudice. He said that volunteers encourage patrons to use the sidewalk and crosswalk, and that pedestrian traffic isn’t worse than it is for community events like the Art Walk.

“The concerns critics are raising are really rooted in the idea that homeless people are second-class citizens who should be pushed out of the public eye,” Charles said. 

Charles said he will work with public officials and the community to ensure that the Crazy Faith “Street Feeds” will continue, and he has no plans to heed the ban. He said many of the attendees, or his “Street Family” as he calls them, are unable to get food elsewhere.

“The impact in a negative way will be immense should Crazy Faith Street Feed and Family Get Together not be allowed to continue,” he said.

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