In a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles, even those most basic acts — like bringing food to the homeless — can be incredibly complicated. In yesterday's LA Times, Alexandra Zavis wrote about the difficult issues stemming from regular citizens heading to downtown's infamous skid row to hand out food and clothing. Zavis quoted police officer Deon Joseph, who said, “We've had people get stabbed after fighting over clothes. We've had people get sick after eating their food. It's just dangerous and irresponsible.”
The trash left behind is a major concern too, bringing rats, cockroaches, and pigeons into an area which is not covered by city sanitation trucks. But some city activists argue that the opposition to their handouts is really just about gentrification.
Despite all of the people who are undoubtedly helped by the distribution of free food and clothing, there are still myriad problems with the system. Said officer Joseph, after watching a family give out clothes which were quickly stuffed into bags, “All that's going to happen is they are going to walk around the corner and start bartering for crack.” Maybe. Maybe not.