Every day around 6:30 p.m., on the corner of San Jacinto and Commerce, volunteers serve a warm meal and a loving smile to the poor and destitute. Currently, all meals are prepared by caring people at their homes and delivered personally by them…... until now. Bobby and Amanda Herring have been forced to stop their tradition of feeding several dozen of Houston's homeless every night, until they get the proper certification for food preparation:
"We don't really know what they want, we just think that they don't want us down there feeding people," said Bobby Herring...Some city councillors have said they are trying to amend the city ordinances that currently prevent people from sharing their food with Houston's less privileged, but meanwhile...:
Anyone serving food for public consumption, whether for the homeless or for sale, must have a permit, said Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department. To get that permit, the food must be prepared in a certified kitchen with a certified food manager.
Bobby Herring said those rules would preclude them from continuing to feed the 60 to 120 people they assisted nightly for more than a year. The food had been donated from area businesses and prepared in various kitchens by volunteers or by his wife.
He and his wife became involved in the effort several years ago, when she would take leftover food from work to the homeless downtown. From there, it expanded into a full-time effort for her working through Eyes on Me, the Herrings' nonprofit organization that focuses on Christian-themed youth outreach efforts.
Nearly every day last year, they distributed food prepared or donated by volunteers or local stores at 6 p.m. at the corner of Commerce and San Jacinto, near the Harris County Jail, Bobby Herring said.
Herring said he was told his operation would have to pay $17 a day for a permit, similar to event vendors.
"They (the homeless) are hungry. It’s freezing in Houston now, and the city doesn’t have to deal with it," he said.
The Health Department's recipe of red tape notwithstanding, the Good Samaritans at Eyes On Me are carrying on as best they can:
In the meantime, we are going to be delivering over 60 sleeping bags to our less fortunate friends within the next couple of days. We will also pursue a temporary daily permit from the Health Department. From our understanding, the Health Department issues these permits for special events such as city festivals. With the donations we have already received, we have enough money to cover the next two months.