Reversing a decision made under former Mayor Michael Nutter's administration in 2012, Philadelphia has formally lifted a ban of serving food in city parks.
In March 2012, the city banned serving food outdoors in all city parks, including at LOVE Park and along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, areas that commonly hosted outreach groups offering free food to the hungry or homeless.
At the time, Nutter cited sanitary conditions and dignity as reasons to ban the giveaways.
"Providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night," the former mayor said.
Nutter defended the ban as part of a plan to broaden care for the poor, but his critics saw it as an effort to clear homeless people away from the Parkway, an area ripe with tourist activity at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the Barnes Foundation.
Religious organizations who provided food and other services to groups in need filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in response. In August, a federal judge issued an injunction that prevented implementation of the ban.
On Tuesday, Kenney's team announced the ban has been formally withdrawn. Plaintiffs and the city have asked for the federal injunctive action to be dismissed.
"The solution to homelessness and hunger is not to stigmatize it and hide it from public view,” Kenney said in a statement. "I share with the plaintiffs a steadfast commitment to serve those in need and, together with other homeless advocates, will continue to pursue short- and long-term approaches to improve food distribution and other vital services and, ultimately, to end hunger and homelessness in Philadelphia.”
Project HOME estimates at any given point there are 650 people living on the streets in Philadelphia; about half of them are in Center City. In November 2015, the nonprofit counted 757 unsheltered people, 445 of whom were in Center City.