On the eve of the start of the outdoor feeding ban, Sister Mary Scullion, Executive Director and President of Project H.O.M.E., sent an open letter to Mayor Michael Nutter urging him to delay the enforcement of the ban. In her appeal, Scullion says beginning the ban at this time with the lack of adequate, alternative facilities in place for indoor feeding and impending State budget cuts as “contrary to the spirit of the City.”
Originally, Sister Mary Scullion and Project H.O.M.E. supported the ban with caution when it was announced in March, calling it a “risk” and “not an easy position to take, but a great opportunity.” At that time, Scullion saw the proposed ban and subsequent indoor facilities as a sign from the Nutter administration wanting to move forward on a broader mission to end homelessness and hunger in Philadelphia. Scullion’s support of the ban was striking while other local homelessness advocates like Philly ReStart’s Adam Bruckner opposed the ban.
Despite Scullion’s 11th hour plea and protests from homeless advocacy groups the City has not made any indication to delay the ban from going into affect today.
The letter can be found in full below:
Dear Mayor Nutter:
I am writing to express our concern regarding the City’s impending ban on outdoor provision of meals in Fairmount Park, particularly with the ban going into effect on June 1, 2012.
Obviously, this policy has sparked considerable controversy – among those groups who provide meals, among homeless service providers and advocates, among religious groups, among the general public, and even among those who are themselves living on the streets. We have been in considerable dialogue with many parties, and those of varied perspectives on the issue, particularly because I publicly stated provisional support for what positive progress could come out of this policy.
Let me assert at the outset that I do believe in your very real and genuine concern for the struggles of our homeless sisters and brothers, and deeply value your leadership and partnership. All of us at Project H.O.M.E. stand with you solidly in your commitment to end homelessness in Philadelphia. We believe that in your role as leader of our City, you share the conviction that none of us are home until all of us are home, and that ending homelessness is part of making this a healthy and vibrant city for all Philadelphians.
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I joined you in your announcement of this policy because we believe that you want to find a resolution to the long-standing controversy of Parkway feeding that would in fact help us as a City make progress in meeting the needs of those who are on the streets. And we continue to support the City’s commitment to establishing indoor facilities with healthy meals in a dignified setting, and with access to services that meet the broader needs of those who are homeless. We also support the City’s commitment to a Commission of stakeholders to develop long-term solutions to the needs of those who are hungry, including those who are in shelter or homeless on the streets.
The reality is that the proposed service-enriched dining centers are not yet in place; those on the streets in need of food do not yet have the appropriate alternatives. So a June 1st initiation of the policy amounts to a ban on street feeding but does not provide the additional availability of indoor meals. Therefore we cannot support the ban of outdoor meals in Fairmount Park at this time.
In fact, we believe you agree that simply banning street feeding is inhumane and contrary to the spirit of our City. With your commitment to upholding the dignity of all Philadelphians, we hope you will also consider the current realities of impending State budget cuts that could further contribute to homelessness in Philadelphia along with a strained City shelter system.
It continues to be our hope that this controversy can be an opportunity for us as a City to make progress in addressing the underlying issues of hunger, housing, and poverty. In this spirit, we respectfully request that the ban on street feeding in Fairmount Park not be enforced until the appropriate quality dining centers are in place.
We share with you a vision of a day when every Philadelphian has a home and can enjoy healthy and sufficient meals. And we intend to work with you and others to hasten that day.
Thank you for your consideration of these issues and for your great leadership on behalf of all Philadelphians.
S. Mary Scullion-30-
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