Is it Illegal to Feed The Homeless in Houston?

Maverick Ray Law
May 15, 2023

Houston Police Enforce Decade-old Charitable Feeding Ordinance

Several charitable organizations, including Food Not Bombs, say they won’t stop feeding Houston’s homeless community despite being warned by law enforcement to stop. Shere Dore, a member of the collective of independent volunteers, believes the sudden enforcement of the decade-old ordinance is part of an effort to revitalize the downtown area.

At Maverick Ray & Associates, we fight relentlessly for our clients. If you received a citation, were arrested for feeding the homeless, or would simply like to learn more about your rights, contact us online or call (281) 346-9451 to arrange a consultation. Our Houston criminal defense lawyers will speak with you for FREE, and there is absolutely no obligation to hire our firm. Call today to get started.

Houston’s Charitable Feeding Ordinance

Back in 2012, the City of Houston put the Charitable Feeding Ordinance in place to regulate who can provide charitable meals to those in need. The regulations require groups feeding more than five people to get permission from the owner of the proposed property.

The ordinance was put in place to ensure the efficient distribution of food, expand the opportunity for the homeless community to connect with charitable food providers, and reduce the impact of food service operations on private and public property.

Charitable Feeding Program Requirements

As detailed on the Houston Health Department website, organizations wishing to distribute food to the homeless must take the following steps:

Register your food service organization.

Registration includes submitting your contact information, and the proposed location, dates, and food to be served.

Sign up for free food handling classes.

The training also includes information about working with the homeless community and referral information for additional services offered to the homeless.

Get consent from the property owner.

The only mandatory step in the process is to obtain owner consent before serving food on private or public property. This is required for both registered and non-registered food service organizations.

Schedule your food service by calling (832) 393-5100.

Coordinating the location and times of charitable food service maximizes the consistent distribution of food to the homeless.

What City Officials Have to Say

The City of Houston released a statement recently on the rules and regulations regarding feeding the homeless. In the statement, city officials said:

"Once again, the City is providing a dedicated location with the appropriate, needed space, and infrastructure/amenities to serve Houstonians with the dignity they deserve. These updated Rules and Regulations do not apply to charitable food service on private property. Charitable food service on public property must be done at 61 Riesner Street, Houston, Texas 77002. It is illegal to provide charitable food service events in a public place in Houston without permission from the City, and after February 24, 2023, citations will be issued."

Where Charitable Feeding Is Allowed

According to the city ordinance, charitable food service is allowed on private property. If the intended food distribution is on public property, it must be done at 61 Riesner Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

Again, it is illegal to offer charitable food services in any other public place besides the Riesner Street location without written permission from the City after February 24, 2023. If you are found to be in violation of the ordinance, citations will be issued.

Call Maverick Ray & Associates Today to Learn More

If you were cited for feeding the homeless in the Houston area, Maverick Ray & Associates can help. We will fight for your rights and work hard to get you the best possible outcome. Contact our firm online or call (281) 346-9451 to arrange a FREE consultation with one of our skilled criminal defense lawyers in Houston.