Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction in Favor of Houston Organization Feeding the Homeless near City Hall

HOUSTON, Texas – Food Not Bombs Houston, an organization that has faced repeated citations for providing free meals to homeless individuals near City Hall, is claiming victory following a recent federal court ruling. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily halts the City of Houston from ticketing volunteers from the organization.

For the past year, Houston police have been issuing citations to volunteers who feed the homeless near the Houston Public Library – Central Library. The citations were based on two city ordinances: one that prohibits the use of public or private property for events without consent, and another that prohibits the use of city property for food service events. The City had offered an alternate location, an old police station on Riesner St., for the organization to conduct their services.

Food Not Bombs Houston filed a lawsuit citing civil rights violations, and Judge Hanen granted the injunction in their favor. The judge acknowledged that the organization is likely to demonstrate their First Amendment right to be on city property across from City Hall. This ruling represents a major win for the organization.

Despite the court order, police presence was still observed near the site on the same day. Police gave the group a warning but eventually left. However, there was uncertainty on whether Food Not Bombs had paid the bond required to continue their food service operation.

In response to the ruling, Arturo Michel, the city attorney, issued a statement that recognized the competing interests involved. He expressed a commitment from Mayor Whitmire to work collaboratively in finding a solution that allows for expression while ensuring public safety and a healthy environment for the homeless and their neighbors at the library and other locations.

Food Not Bombs Houston volunteers are pleased with the outcome and remain dedicated to sharing food and love through their grassroots efforts. The organization’s attorney, Dustin Rynders, stated that this victory reinforces their belief in their First Amendment rights.

The fight between Food Not Bombs Houston and the City of Houston has gained significant attention over the past year. This court ruling is expected to have broader implications for the freedom to provide food and services to homeless communities in public spaces. The case highlights the ongoing challenges faced by volunteer organizations striving to support vulnerable populations in urban areas.

As the legal battle continues, it remains to be seen how this injunction will impact the city’s approach to addressing homelessness, and whether a new ordinance will be established to accommodate the needs of the homeless population while maintaining public safety and sanitation standards. The outcome of this case could potentially set a precedent for similar conflicts in other cities across the country.