James D. Chamerlain: City feeding restrictions are immoral, unconstitutional

Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.

On Wednesday evening, January 29th, the Catholic Action Resource Exchange (known as C.A.R.E.) held a meeting to empower concerned citizens to plan and strategize for the January 25th meeting of the Gainesville City Commission, in hopes that the 130 person feeding restriction imposed on St. Francis House might be discussed. As it turns out Gainesville City

Commission determined that it would hear discussion concerning the 20 person feeding restriction imposed on houses of worship, so we tailored our meeting to address these points.

Some background for the reader: In March, 2009, the Gainesville City Planning Board voted to renew the special usage permit which allows St. Francis House (Gainesville's homeless shelter and soup kitchen) to continue serving its clients (which, with the fall out of the housing market and near collapse of our economy, now includes blue-and-white collar citizens). At this meeting, several people, business owners and even a woman identifying herself as a mental health expert and lawyer rolled out their arguments against the renewal of the special usage permit.

The arguments presented by the opponents of the poor (who were actually representatives of a key outside financial interest) at the March, 2009, hearing were primarily focused on aesthetics, and a flawed interpretation of the 130 person feeding restriction. As a result, and with the majority of stakeholders in favor of St. Francis House, the special usage permit was

renewed. St. Francis House was found to be "in substantial compliance" with regulations, and was asked to submit 6 month reports.

Outside financial interests, in an attempted land grab, persisted in attacking St. Francis House, and strong-armed St. Francis House, forcing them to close the door on the 131st hungry citizen, irrespective of whether that 131st person was a man, woman, or child.

On December 7th, 2009, the Catholic Action Resource Exchange, in conjunction with other advocacy groups in Gainesville, organized a significant turnout to a City Planning Board meeting where the 130 person feeding restriction was discussed. The Planning Board was addressed by concerned citizens, and at this meeting the Planning Board agreed to send a recommendation to Gainesville City Commission that they repeal the 130 person feeding restriction.

On Wednesday, January 29, at St. Patrick Catholic Parish Community Room, C.A.R.E. held a community meeting which was attended by City Commissioner Jack Donovan, clergy from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Patrick Catholic Parish, Highlands Presbyterian Church and countless concerned citizens. A thorough discussion and survey was conducted to

determine how best to continue the push to repeal these immoral impositions on the religious community of Gainesville. No matter if your outlook is liberal or conservative, this discussion proved why we should all get behind the lifting of the feeding restrictions, which is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

James D. Chamerlain,


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