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No bleach but you still need classes to feed homeless

The group of individuals known by what they do, provide Free Hot Soup and other food for the homeless, is not satisfied with the city’s revised policies this week.

The Kansas City, Missouri Health Department has published updated FAQs on its website  preventing its inspectors from pouring bleach onto food in situations such as the Free Hot Soup incident earlier in November.

Free Hot Soup is really not a group, unless you consider Facebook groups official civic groups. It’s really just a bunch of people who are concerned about homeless people. They gather on Facebook to plan evenings when they’ll head to one spot in the city and feed the homeless living under overpasses and in city parks.

On November 4 the group of good Samaritans gathered to feed the homeless at Davis Park. As they passed out banana brea, coffee, bread and filled paper bowls from Costco with soup,  they met modern bureaucracy. Health Department inspectors swarmed the site and raided the outreach pouring bleach on the food, leaving it on the grounds of the park. They informed the organizers that they needed a permit to feed hungry people.

The action by the city was met with swift and overwhelming public outrage. It became a PR nightmare.

People across the area wondered if they too, were prevented from just buying food and serving a need in the moment when they saw it. Does everyone offering a hand-up to the homeless need to go through city bureaucracy to help give a sandwich or meal to a homeless person?

That’s still not clear but the KCMO Health Department has changed its rules and guess what? If you want to feed the hungry, you now have to take a classes.

Classes? To give out soup, sandwiches and hot coffee?

The KCMO Health Department now says in its Nov. 16 FAQ that the Free Hot Soup group will still need a permit to serve food to the public, and although the $25 fee will be waived, online or in-person classes must be completed to obtain a permit.

One of the members of the Facebook group is not having it and on the Free Hot Soup Facebook page has posted a reponse to the KCMO Health Department’s new rules: “Free Hot Soup” is not a charitable group, but is a reference to a handful of closed Facebook communities in which permits and oversight are not applicable.

With the coldest and snowiest winter in years ahead for Kansas City, there will no doubt be more people across the metro wanting to help. It’s yet to be seen how the city will respond if the group, or other individuals, choose to feed the homeless on a night when it’s 0 degrees.