No matter what religion you are or who you believe in, feeding and caring for the poor is a fundamentally good thing — unless you live in the United Kingdom. People here with humanitarian goals were recently reprehended by police for caring for others, and offering food to homeless people.
Dorset, England is the latest location to draw uncharitable attention and derision after closing down a group that was serving the rapidly growing homeless population in the UK. Homelessness has already been soaring in the country, and as we head into one of the coldest times of the year, people are hungry.
The council in Dorset didn’t care about the chill – or about the hot meals the charity they shut down was dishing out to those in needs. Help for Homeless is made up of a group of cooks based in Dorchester. These home-based cooks had been using their own resources, grocery budgets, and food to feed those going cold and hungry in their own backyards.
The Dorset council didn’t care, though. Council recently shut down the home grown charity. The group had been feeding those in need and the homeless for over four years before the closure. In addition to closing the group down, the council threatened to prosecute or arrest those who were attempting to help others. The reason? The well intentioned cooks at Help for Homeless don’t have a proper license to feed the hungry.
Police shut down the group in November, claiming that the home-made food did not go through the right level of inspections and could put the homeless at risk. In other words, the homeless were better off going cold and without a hot meal than they would be by being fed by others living in the community.
Help for Homeless organizer Rebecca Hobby reacted bitterly.
“They said we were putting ourselves at risk from a liability point of view if someone got food poisoning”, she said. “I asked the lady if we could continue and she said ‘no, we are shutting you down.'”
Following the Golden Rule and feeding others was not just a bad idea in Dorset, it could put the charitable at risk.
“We were then told by the police officer that if we didn’t stop and had a case of food poisoning we could ‘end up in the dock and that’s not a nice place to be.’ We were told then that was going to be our last food run and we are not to continue. We were stunned,” Hobby concluded.
Many in the group believe that the reason they were prevented from feeding the homeless was not hygiene or fears about food poisoning, it was more about the population of homeless people that were around the council office. By feeding these hungry people, the group was contributing to their ongoing presence at the council offices.
“We aren’t selling the food, we are normal people just trying to give hungry people a hot meal and they are chucking all this red tape at us,” said Helper Stuart Campbell, a 46-year-old postman.
“I think it is disgusting. I think the council don’t want it outside their offices”, he continued.
Dorset’s homeless population are the ones who lost most, as they no longer have access to a hot meal even once a day, or a modicum of kindness these locals were offering those less fortunate.