Good morning and congratulations on your elections, Mayor Whitmore and City Council Members:
I am the Rev. Dr. Colin Bossen, Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston. Located in heart of the Museum District, an average of 400 people join us each week for worship and spiritual development. We hold democracy as a religious practice. Every election, in partnership with The Metropolitan Organization and other area congregations, we organize dozens of our members to contact thousands of people in get out the vote and voter registration efforts.
Today, I am here to ask you to do three things: end the enforcement of the Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance; drop all charges against volunteers for feeding people; and repeal the ordinance.
End the enforcement of the Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance, according to Feeding America, there are over six hundred thousand food insecure people in Harris County. Many of them are children. Some of them are unhoused. Most of them lack the resources to easily move around our community with its underdeveloped mass transit and lack of walkable neighborhoods. Easily accessible, public feeding sites, such as the Central Library, serve an essential role in helping these people get access to free, healthy, meals. Our community needs dozens of public feeding sites, not the stingy single police parking lot that the city has allotted.
Drop all charges against volunteers, since March 2023 the city has issued over 85 criminal citations for sharing food. This is an unconscionable waste of resources. It is immoral to persecute those devoted to serving others. They should be celebrated by elected officials such as yourselves, not cited. The city’s money is better used providing services like affordable housing, something First Unitarian Universalist is committed to.
Repeal the ordinance, Texas is well known for practicing the politics of cruelty. Our state government demonizes and disenfranchises the poor and marginalized. It refuses to fund public services–only just this week rejecting $350 million from the federal government for food for poor children–and does a terrible job of taking care of its residents. Here in Houston, we can do better by making it easier to feed people—to be compassionate and repeal the ordinance—rather than harder.
Repealing the ordinance, dropping charges, ending enforcement, this an opportunity for Houston to become an island of compassion in a sea of cruelty. I implore you to use our resources for the public good, not to punish those who do good in public.
Thank you for your time and your service.