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Advocates for homeless to protest perceived efforts to stem their work

September 30, 2010 |  2:25 pm

Advocates for the homeless plan to serve meals to skid row residents Thursday afternoon to protest what they say are efforts to prevent them from providing much-needed basic resources to the indigent.

The Right to Share Food Extravaganza is scheduled to take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the southwest corner of 6th Street and Towne Avenue, two blocks east of San Pedro Street.

“We want to exercise and protect our right to share food with our brothers and sisters,” said Michael Hubman, founder of the groups Right to Share Food and Watercorps, which provides drinking water to people living on skid row.

The "sidewalk picnic" is part of a daylong series of actions to support the right to provide ad hoc meals and snacks to people on the street. Dozens of groups from across Southern California hand out food and clothing each week on skid row.

Hubman and other activists claim that law enforcement officers and some city officials are intentionally trying to cut off such supplies in an attempt to force the homeless into shelters.

James Parham, who helps run World Agape, a resource center for the homeless, said that in June public health officials stopped him from operating a 5-year-old soup line because of food safety regulations and potential environmental hazards.

"It’s more stereotyping people on skid row," Parham said.

LAPD Officer Deon Joseph, a senior lead officer with the city's Safer City Initiative, disputed the claims posed by some advocates. "That’s absolutely 100% false," he said. "What we’re for is people doing it in a responsible way."

Providing resources, such as bottled water and hygiene products, and encouraging street people to seek assistance at designated missions and shelters are productive ways to assist the homeless, Joseph said.

"When you give them food in an area where there are so many other resources for foods, you're incentivizing the streets and keeping them on the streets and nearer to their vices, like drugs," Joseph said.

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times