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2016-04-11 10.52.25 Biting The Hands That Feed
“When a poor person dies of hunger it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
-Mother Teresa

(Following is a paper written by Lia for a class at Cal State East Bay on being penalized for serving homeless people and her experiences volunteering as a Martha)

More and more cities across America are taking both moderate and extreme measures` to solve the issue of homelessness. Many cities have attempted to pass ordinances that restrict people from feeding the homeless in public in an effort to reduce homelessness. At least 21 cities so far have been successful in instating such ordinances, but then the questions of legality, morality, and practicality must be asked. How does illegalizing feeding the homeless benefit the city, if it does at all, and how does it affect citizens? Arrests, citations, fines, and lawsuits have already gone underway since cities began banning food sharing. However, homelessness has yet to be diminished.
One of the first cities to ban food sharing in public is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Arnold P. Abbott, a ninety year-old activist, was arrested twice for feeding the homeless at the beach. Abbot along with a pastor were arrested and faced with a five hundred dollar fine and sixty days jail time. When questioned about the ordeal Abbot said, “One of the police officers said, ‘drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon…It’s man’s inhumanity to man is all it is.” The city of Fort Lauderdale claims that the reason for such an ordinance is based on the idea that if people feed the hungry and homeless the recipients will become dependent and will be less likely to break the cycle of homelessness. A similar occurrence transpired in Manchester, New Hampshire when churchgoers were prohibited from feeding the homeless at a local park. Instead of being arrested they were fined and received citations.
There are multiple measures to which cities go to in order to restrict food distribution to the hungry and homeless. Laws are disguised as regulations that prevent littering, loitering, and provide public safety. The two main forms of restrictions are in the sort of public property rules and food safety regulations. These would be manifested into regulations that restrict feeding on public property, limit the number of people who are allowed to be fed, create new food safety restrictions, and influence police harassment that is meant to deter people from feeding or arriving to be fed. In Raleigh, North Carolina feeding the homeless will cost a good samaritan about $1,600 dollars per weekend to pay for temporary permits. Therefore making feeding those in need practically impossible.

Another city that has been under the microscope regarding feeding the homeless is Charlotte, North Carolina. However, it isn’t local government imposing restrictions and pressuring people to limit food distribution, its community groups that practice “Not In My Backyard”, or NIMBY, politics. These groups pose threats to homeless feeding out of fear that it will decrease their property value or have adverse affects on their lifestyles. These groups along with others represent one side of the battle for common space that has been ongoing throughout history. It is a battle that has long been based on racial and economic inequality and social alienation; the objective was and is to make the “undesirables” vanish from the world of the privileged. It is the product of decades of class struggles and political efforts meant to manage economic disruptions that have greatly impacted the modern welfare estate.
The economy itself is one of the main factors that not only contribute towards the causation of homelessness, but the criminalization of the homeless. The political-economic crises have increased the marginality and impoverishment of workers and have contributed to the slowly growing phenomenon of homelessness. As the economic crises deepens in America so does the hardships associated with the rapid introduction of technology and division of labor that can result in the increase in numbers of the poor and homeless. The poor and homeless are the most visible victims of economic hardships and transitions. The homeless are representatives of a “dangerous class” that is held liable for societal ills such as poverty, disease, and crime. When discussing how society is currently dealing with the homeless Michael Stoops, director of community organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless, says “Cities have grown tired of the problem, so they think by criminalizing homelessness they’ll get rid of the visible homeless populations.”

If it is true that history repeats itself the treatment of the homeless and how the government reacts to homelessness is a poignant example. In the early 14th and 15th century of England, the bourgeoisie successfully criminalized the homeless. They were criminally sanctioned for vagrancy, idleness, and migrating. Much like the lobbyists and other political leaders that support the banning of food distribution to the homeless, the bourgeoisie blamed the individuals instead of the structural circumstances. One lobbyist, Ron Brook, explained “Feeding people on the streets is sanctioning homelessness. Whatever discourages feeding people on the streets is a positive thing.” This mind frame insinuates that the homeless are choosing to be homeless and that they are in fact hedonistic. Robert Marburt, a San Antonio based consultant, referred to street feeding as, “one of the worst things to do, because it keeps people in homeless status…[He} thinks it’s very unproductive, very enabling, and it keeps people out of recovery programs.”

Essentially, the basis of banning the act of food distribution to the homeless is a “tough love” plot to force the homeless out of their “self-imposed cycle” which in turn will decrease the rate of homelessness and better the entire community. Surprisingly, the notion that maybe it isn’t self-imposed has yet to be considered by those attempting to restrict the feeding of those in need. Los Angeles, for instance, is one of the cities that have introduced restrictions on feeding the homeless without completely outlawing the act. Punk Rock Marthas, a non-profit “guerilla philanthropist” organization volunteers to serve food to the homeless monthly in Downtown Los Angeles on Skid Row. I myself am a member of the non-profit organization and volunteer regularly. Whilst serving those that enter the St. Francis Center on Saturday mornings, I had the pleasure to converse with the poor, homeless, and poverty stricken recipients. Many of whom explained that it is not a choice that they cannot afford to feed themselves. It is more often than not a series of unfortunate events that led them to their current state whether that is unemployment due to the economic disruptions, rejection of veteran benefits upon returning from war, inability to retain employment due to physical disability, or many other misfortunes.
The illegalization of feeding the homeless and the criminalization of the homeless are laws without morals. When determining the basis of moral laws, there are two types of laws. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the difference between just and unjust laws in his infamous letter from Birmingham Jail. The letter was geared toward addressing social injustices forced upon the minority in a racially segregated America. The parallel between racial injustice and social injustice is apparent, in the way that there are unjust laws that legalize social and racial inequality. Dr. King explained that, “a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God.” Whereas, “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law…an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.” When a majority forces a minority to follow a law that does not apply to itself, then it is acting unjustly. It is legalizing the “difference” between people. Therefore, those that are of high social and economic standing are the majority and the homeless, in this case, are the minority. Those like Arnold Abbot, Punk Rock Marthas, and the Manchester churchgoers felt a moral obligation to break the laws that are unjust.

The United States of America is experiencing a rapid growth in the amount of homeless people that inhabit this nation. Passing ordinances that make it so hard to eat that they will have to move will not solve the issue of homelessness. That would just make them another city’s issue. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has proposed multiple, more just, solutions. One solution, for example, is investment in homeless programs that have proven to end homelessness, and provide resources to fully implement the HEARTH Act, which will significantly improve the outcomes of federal spending. However, it seems as though much of America has decided that the current “solution” will be to make it a crime to give a person what he or she needs. Much of America has decided it will put forth effort into moving the homeless rather than helping.
Works Cited

Barclay, Eliza. “More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The
Homeless”. The Salt. National Public Radio, Oct 2014. Web. 10 Mar 2016.

Barak, Gregg, and Robert M. Bohm. “The Crimes of the Homeless or The Crime of
Homelessness? On the dialectics of Criminalization, Decriminalization, and Victimization.” Contemporary Crises 13.3 (1989): 275-288.

Cummings, Matthew M. “The Continued Illegalization of Compassion: United States V.
Milus and Its Effects on Humanitarian Work with the Homeless.” Boston College Third World Law Journal a>31.2 (2011): 439-455. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Donato, Christopher. “90-Year-Old Man Charged With Feeding Homeless Says He
Won’t ‘Give Up”. ABC News. American Broadcast Company, 6 Nov 2014. Web. 10 Mar 2016.

“Increases in Homelessness on the Horizon”. National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Homelessness Research Institute, 28 Sept 2011. Web. 10 Mar 2016

Rafferty, Lawrence. “Why is it Illegal to Feed the Homeless?”. Jonathan Turley. N.P.,
9 Nov 2014. Web. 10 Mar 2016.

Rothkopf, Joanna. “It is now illegal to distribute food to homeless people in 21 cities”.
Salon. Salon Media Group Inc., 23 Oct 2014. Web. 10 Mar 2016

Yanklowitz, Shmuly. “Forbidden To Feed The Homeless?”. HuffPost Religion.
Huffington Post, 13 Jan 2015. Web. 10 Mar 2016.

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Hollywood Children’s Book Fair

2015-book fair-revWe are sooooo excited for the Hollywood Children’s Book Fair this Saturday the 14th from 12-4 at Cheremoya Elementary! We have lots of cool activities, FOUR delicious food trucks (The Deli Doctor, Dogtown Dogs, Los Ruiz, The S’Cream Truck), Skylight Books selling books– and TEN fabulous authors!! The event is free thanks to the generous sponsorship of Hollywood United Neighborhood Council, Cheremoya Foundation as well as the UPS Store, Kettle Glazed Donuts, and The Oaks Gourmet (and US, of course!)

The following are the approximate times authors will take the stage to speak, but they’ll also be signing throughout the day. Come say hi!

12:00 Cecil Castellucci
12:35 Eugene Yelchin & Mina Javaherbin
1:00 Girls and Diversity in Children’s Books author panel with Karen English,
Cecil Castelucci and Sherri L. Smith
1:25 Oliver Chin
1:50 James Burks
2:15 Dan Santat
2:40 Sherri L. Smith
3:05 Luis Rodriguez
3:30 Elise Allen

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The 2nd Hollywood Children’s Book Fair

2015 book fair posterREVISEDpsdIt delights us to no end to announce our sponsorship of the second Hollywood Children’s Book Fair! This awesome event features NINE incredible, award-winning, best selling children’s authors and illustrators including:
Dan Santat – The 2015 Caldecott Winner!!
Luis Rodriguez- The 2015 Los Angeles Poet Laureate
Elise Allen, Karen English, Sherri Smith, Oliver Chin, Eugene Yelchin, James Burks and Cecil Castellucci.

The event will be held Saturday, November 14th from Noon – 4:00pm (doors open at 11:30) at Cheremoya Avenue Elementary. There will be books for sale from Skylight Books and author readings/signings (times be posted prior to the event) as well as food trucks and activities for the kids.

We are delighted to have such a talented, diverse group of authors confirmed for the book fair. Save the date and stay tuned for more details!

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Banned Books Week!

It’s funny- because we are a bunch of do-gooders… but we are opinionated do-gooders. And every time we talk about something close to our hearts, it upsets a few IMG_20151002_172351of our followers. Banned books is one such topic…

Why do we care about banned books so much? Well, we got our name from one, Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. “Marthas are big on helping… (they) tackle projects and perform good deeds…They run the canned-food drive, tutor kids in the city…They also do nice things for teachers. Gag.” It’s an incredible book about a girl overcoming trauma, and it’s helped countless teens feel like they aren’t alone. It’s banned because of “soft pornography and glorifying pre-marital sex” which, if you’ve actually read it is kind of shocking. A girl fights off an attacker, which we find neither pornographic nor glorifying pre-marital sex. Which is why we think banning books is wrong. First, it seems like people hear of something objectionable in a book and find a couple lines to use out of context to prevent EVERYONE from having access to it. If you don’t want your kids to read it, talk to them about it, but don’t prevent it from being available to other. Second, the books that are banned are usually pretty important. Think about it. Most important books have been banned at some point. We think teaching kids how to think for themselves is really important, and banning age appropriate literature from libraries is not the way to do that.

The coolest thing about Speak is what the author said in a poem made entirely of fan mail she’d received over its first decade. You’ll be blown away, too– when you hear how this banned book had such a positive effect on so many lives. Watch it here!

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Audience with Pope Francis

We were surprised and honored to asked to join our friends at St Francis Center for a television special on homelessness in Los Angeles, which required us to be downtown before 5:00 am… It turned out that it was for the Pope’s Virtual Tour and since his Los Angeles focus was on homelessness, nine agencies who work with the homeless were invited. None of knew what was in store, which meant that everyone there had his or her heart in the right place to have a four a.m. wake up call to talk about the homeless. Boy we were glad we did!

We come from many different religious backgrounds, but we all agree that he’s such an awesome force. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the homeless spoke to him, and when he called on the Sister in Texas and said he loved her.

Watch the entire encounter here
ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

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Organic Salsa for Homeless Breakfast

IMG_20150917_085948One thing we forget about when we think of homeless people is how difficult it becomes to eat well. Readily available food that’s affordable is often over processed, full of sodium, fat and sugar, and far from your mama’s cooking. We try to do something special every month at our homeless breakfast service, in addition to serving a balanced homecooked meal.

We were incredibly lucky to have Muir Ranch in Pasadena donate two cases of organic peppers in September. Our friend, chef Jonathan Pimental turned them into a delicious salsa, which they loooooved!

Even the pictures are mouth-watering! We’re looking forward to doing more cool things in October!IMG_20150917_091222IMG_20150920_085225IMG_20150920_121557

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Our Summer Reading for Kids Rocked!!!

In June, we purchased 450 new books and delivered them to Title One elementary schools in Hollywood. With the help of two other local nonprofits, Cheremoya Foundation and Hollywood Arts Council, a total of 800 books were purchased!

This was our second year hosting three book talks at the Hollywood Goldwyn Library, kicked off with Councilmember Mitch OFarrell reading to the kids– and he was incredible! Our booktalks had an art component, healthy snacks provided by Kim Woo the awesome librarian, pizza from us, and coffee for parents generously donated by Sunset/Gower Starbucks. The talemted Cecil Castellucci stopped by for our teen discussion of Beige.

Counterpoint Records and Books donated some books for a bookswap, and at our final meeting last week, we allowed our fabulous kid readers to take a few for their home libraries.

We will sponsor the second Hollywood Children’s Book Fair on November 14th from 12-4. In the meantime, we’re back to focusing on the homeless.

Until next time, we leave you with these awesome images:IMG_20150623_162609






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Lia Discusses Racism & the Black Lives Matter Movement

As an African American teenager in the United States of America I have obviously been aware of my race since starting elementary school. Unfortunately I was not introduced to the differences of skin color gradually or positively. I was bullied for being brown. Not only was I bullied for my “black girl” qualities but also I was terrorized for the parts of me that were to good for a black girl to have, like my hair. As a child my hair was longer than the other black girls at my school and substantially curlier which caused distaste with the Latina American girls I wanted to be my friends. The constant pulling and tugging of my hair became more frequent than laughter at such a young age. Because I am talking about six year old girls, you wouldn’t describe this as racism in effect, but it is. But this is a very early stage of racism; this is what we learn from our parents and family. As young sponges of everything we see and do, this is us mirroring what we think is right. If my entire life I was told that all Hispanic women were supposed to be dangerous and terrifying, what do you think I would do, as a child, once I saw a seemingly Hispanic woman? I would run in the opposite direction. This is how racism starts.
Fast forward to high school, I was in a more ethnically diverse setting. There weren’t just Hispanic and African American people, there were Caucasians, Asians, almost every ethnicity was represented but racisms was alive and well. But it wasn’t in the form of bullying through hair pulling anymore. It was through cultural appropriation, verbal abuse, inappropriate questions, seemingly harmless conversations, and discrimination. It was more apparent in the way a Caucasian girl asked me, with a smile, if I could give her “nigger braids”, and it was more subtle in the way that a teacher joked about my dreadlocks and the told me about how I can’t be black because “I’m pretty and my hair is nice and not nappy”.
Racism stems from fear of the unknown and the false information given to us to absorb as young children. We have all heard the saying, “no one is born a racist” and it is true. Racism is instilled in young persons through nurturing or experiences. Racism is the enemy and force of the Black Lives Matter Movement. It is because my black life isn’t put on the same level as my white peer. It is because the N word is used in everyday language of students who aren’t African American. Through social media our everyday hardships are coming to the forefront and aren’t getting swept under the carpet. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a movement of hope and light and endurance for we ad black people has suffered to many types of racism and no type of reconcilement. Black lives matter is us stating that we are humans, no less and no more valuable than another. #Blacklivesmatter is our way of telling the public that we will no longer sit around while our hair gets pulled, and our skin color gets mocked, and our culture gets used for fashion and our lives get taken mercilessly. And if social media is the gateway into the homes and minds of the country, then that is the gate we’ll use to show that our lives matter.

Lia is a two year Martha who will be starting her freshman year in college this fall.

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Win A copy of Beige by Cecil Castellucci & Come Discuss it with Us!

Beige by Cecil Castellucci

Beige by Cecil Castellucci

We bought five copies of Beige by Cecil Castellucci to give away for our (only) young adult book talk at the Goldwyn Library on Tuesday July 14 @ 3:00. (Children’s book group discussing Frindle will immediately follow at 4:00pm. Stick around for both)

We will have pizza and snacks– and best of all we’ll be discussing one of our favorite books (which we’ve quoted on PRM jewelry!)!

If you would like to win a copy, please email and give your mailing (street) address. Marthas are eligible to enter and win. The first five emails will win copies!

Whether you win a copy, buy a copy, or check one out from the library, we hope to see you on the 14th, punks!!

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Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell to Kick Off Our Summer Reading for Children!

CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell with The BFG

CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell with The BFG

Councilmember O’Farrell will kick off our second summer reading program at the Goldwyn Library by reading from Roald Dahl’s The BFG. We could not be more excited!

Please join us on Tuesday (and bring as many kids as you can!) June 23rd at 4:00pm at the Hollywood Goldwyn Library (1623 North Ivar Avenue) upstairs in the children’s reading area. We will bring some yummy snacks!

We donated 450 books to children this summer (and our friends CF and the HAC brought the total to 800!) Come celebrate books and summer with our very special guest, and us!! Stick around after his reading to discuss the book with us!

See you there!!

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Our Summer Reading Program for Children- Year Two!!

imageWe are ecstatic to be returning to the Hollywood Goldwyn Library again this summer to discuss books with local elementary school kids. Literacy is a huge deal! It is key to academic success in every subject and a strong determinate as to whether a child will graduate from high school. Yet by fourth grade, children of low socioeconomic status are a full year behind in their reading abilities, which worsens every summer when they’re out of school.

This year we purchased over 450 brand new chapter books that were donated to students in Hollywood. We partnered with Cheremoya Foundation and Hollywood Arts Council who also purchased and donated books, bringing the total of books delivered to kids in Hollywood to 800!!
All books were of one of three titles from award-winning authors. We will be leading discussions (with snacks!!) with students who have read the books and also with children who want to. Please join us at the Goldwyn Library on the following Tuesdays:

Tuesday June 23rd at 4:00 The BFG by Roald Dahl
Tuesday July 14th at 4:00 Frindle by Andrew Clements
Tuesday August 4th at 4:00 Lawnboy by Gary Paulson

We are also doing one teen book, Beige by Cecil Castellucci, on Tuesday July 14th at 3:00 (so you can come and stick around for both!)

We look forward to seeing you!

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Rhythms and Rhymes with Luis Rodriguez & John Densmore

R&R w logo 700We are so excited to sponsor this exciting event on Sunday, May 24th! Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez will be speaking and reciting poetry while John Densmore plays drums. Additionally, The Get Lit Players and Sin Color will be performing! Live music and tacos by Loteria– what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?
We purchased tickets to ensure that various at risk organizations and teens from all over the city would be able to attend. If you would like a pair of free tickets, please email
Tickets can be purchased through the box office for $10 (half off $20 ticket price) using code HAC10 or free ($6.50 surcharge) on Goldstar
This event benefits the Hollywood Arts Council, which provides arts instruction to elementary school students in Hollywood. We’ve teamed up with them to promote our summer reading, so this event is a perfect way to start it off!

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In Their Own Words— Who Are the Punk Rock Marthas Video

Who are Punk Rock Marthas? With a name like ours, it’s a common question. And one best answered by the Marthas themselves in this short, amazing video by the awesome Ryan Oksenburg of Life Line Booths on Pivot TV.

High school and college students from the past seven years are interviewed about their experiences volunteering in their communities and how it has impacted their lives.

We talk a lot about youth today, but if you have 4 minutes, you might want to give them a listen. What they say might just blow you away!Click here to watch the video

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Blanket Drive for the Homeless

It’s that time of year again! While we don’t like the focus on being generous only once a year, the holidays do pose additional challenges to groups who work with the homeless. For one, the weather! It’s cold and rainy, especially at night, and while most of us take our blankets out/put them away year after year, this is not an option when you’re on the street. And SOCKS!! I could write a book about the importance of clean, dry socks. Again, when it’s raining and your feet get wet, it’s nearly impossible to stay warm, and perpetually wet feet cause other health issues. Without washers/dryers readily available, socks are generally a disposable item for the homeless.

We purchase items and accept donations, as we “adopt” extremely low income families (near homeless families that are also served by St Francis Center) to help them celebrate the holidays, we collect/buy blankets for the homeless we’ll serve on the 20th, we’ll also have toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, soap etc) in kits for our diners that day.

This is our 7th holiday serving the homeless. We hope you will help by dropping a new/gently used blanket to Y Que Trading Post in Los Feliz (1770 N Vermont), Counterpoint Records and Books in Hollywood (5911 Franklin Avenue), or by making a donation to us via PayPal.

Thank you!

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KCRW interviews the Marthas!!

IMG_20141116_141309A few years ago when we did the memorial mural/ benefit for Elliott Smith and it got international press, we lamented that the press didn’t care when we served the homeless. What’s that expression about eating crow feathers? We were actually ecstatic to be proven wrong by the incredible Lisa Napoli, who came out to do a story on us at St Francis Center in November.

Read/listen in and enjoy!!