On Wednesday, December 10, the Law Center formally settled our long-standing litigation with the city of Dallas, over the city’s ordinance imposing unreasonable burdens on religious and other nonprofit organizations seeking to share food with homeless persons in public spaces. As part of the settlement, the Dallas City Council approved a revised ordinance governing food sharing, and agreed to pay the Law Center and our clients $250,000. In March, 2013, the Law Center secured a favorable judicial decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in Dallas. The decision found that significant portions of the ordinance violated the Texas Religious Freedom Act – imposing undue burdens on our clients, religious organizations sharing food with homeless persons out of their spiritual beliefs and convictions.
Specifically, the settlement and revised ordinance:
- Eliminate the need for organizations to provide advance notice of food sharing, unless more than 75 people will be fed.
- Remove the requirement that organizations sharing food provide restroom facilities.
- Allow people sharing food to sanitize their hands with liquid sanitizer, rather than requiring them to provide access to soap and running water.
- Apply to all organizations sharing food with homeless persons, not just religious groups.
This, especially in light of the recent attention on food-sharing bans, is a crucial victory in our effort to reverse the criminalization of homelessness. The Law Center is committed to ensuring the rights of those experiencing homelessness are secure, as well as the rights of those wishing to help them.
Read even more about this at Think Progress, This Texas City’s Attempt to Fight Charities that Feed the Homeless Cost it 8 Years and $250,000.