The Kansas City Health Department is facing backlash after trashing and pouring bleach on meals intended to feed the homeless earlier this month.
According to The Kansas City Star, local group, Free Hot Soup KC planned to distribute free meals that included home-made chili, foil-wrapped sandwiches and vats of soup at several parks across the city on Nov. 5. City health officials confiscated the meals, however, saying the group didn’t have a permit and was putting the public at risk.
“E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food,” department director Rex Archer said. “And then you give that to homeless people who are more vulnerable — they will end up in the ER and even die from that exposure.”
The meals were ultimately dumped in bags and soaked in chlorine bleach to ensure no one went back for them later. City officials insist they were only trying to protect public health.
“There is no question that feeding the homeless is critical,” Archer continued. “There are 43 organizations (excluding Free Hot Soup KC) that have permits and do it in a safe way.”
Volunteers with Free Hot Soup KC were irate over the incident, however, and saw the raid as yet another attempt by the city to disrupt their potluck dinners aimed at feeding local vagrants.
“It’s about the criminalization of people who are homeless and the people who support them,” Eric Garbison of the Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House told the newspaper.
Tara McGaw, 27, who started the Free Soup gatherings in Belton, Mo., said the recent incident has left people feeling scared.
“We’re not an establishment,” she said. “We’re not a not-for-profit. We’re just friends trying to help people on the side.”
Mayor Sly Jackson sided with city health officials, however, and tweeted that, “Rules are there to protect the public’s health, and all groups must follow them, no exceptions.”
— Mayor Sly James (@MayorSlyJames) November 5, 2018
Undeterred, the Kansas City Star noted that Free Soup volunteers returned to a Kansas City Park on Sunday with hot meals on hand. No health officials intervened during the gathering, according to the paper.