You know what? People who take on noble acts such as feeding the homeless should be celebrated. They should be rewarded in SO many ways! They should not be fined and threatened with jail time. But that is just what happened to do-gooders Debbie and Chico Jimenez of Daytona Beach, Florida.
The couple had retired from their careers to focus on helping those in need. They found their calling by making home-cooked meals and feeding about 100 homeless people, once a week, at the Manatee Island Park, a generous deed that they have been doing for a about a year. Not only are these meals in danger of stopping completely, but the couple have been fined more than $2,000 and are being threatened with jail time. “We were given 10 days to either pay the fine or tell them we're going to court," Debbie Jimenez said."We’re going to court. The police don’t like it. But how can we turn our backs on the hungry? We can’t.”
Yes, the two are totally being punished for helping the homeless! But why?
Apparently citizens of Daytona Beach had complained that the homeless were urinating and defecating in the park, as well as showing up to the free meals in a state of intoxication. "We as a city have spent millions of dollars to turn that park into a place for families, kids and dog lovers," Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said. "We have an ordinance that says when people want to perform acts of kindness or charity that they must coordinate with our local social service agencies."
The couple -- who have their own Smyrna Beach-based ministry called “Spreading the Word Without Saying a Word" - have been working independently and apparently not through the city.
But shouldn't it be okay for anyone who wants to help can do so without the fear of fines or jail? What kind of message is this sending not just others who want to help but to our children? There should not be limits on how to help, but perhaps there could be certain rules in place. Maybe they should serve their meals near a place that has restrooms or maybe they should enforce a rule that says if you show up drunk, you won't be served. To totally stop their efforts to help the homeless is not the answer.
What do you think? Should those who want to help be able to do so without being hassled by the authorities?
Photo via Glowbal Collection/Flickr