A glaring example illustrating just how much government bureaucracies dislike competition from citizens is Houston’s “Charitable Feeding Ordinance.”

The adversely-named law has the effect of increasing government dependency while criminalizing Houstonians seeking to help the Bayou City’s most disadvantaged.

The controversial ordinance prohibits feeding “five or more” homeless people on public property unless you become a city registered “Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider.”

The exhaustive process includes an application and training course, and requires that city bureaucrats first inspect food preparation and transportation areas. Finally, either the Director of Parks and Recreation or Director of Health and Human Services will determine if the application is approved.

The ordinance is supposedly aimed at curbing activity already prohibited by the city, such as trespassing and littering. Rather than enforce existing laws, Houston officials have chosen to enact redundant restrictions that discourage charitable activity and deprive the needy.

Without the giving nature of its citizens, Houston’s growing homeless population will be forced to rely heavily on city services, such as food banks and shelters—services not readily accessible to those without transportation.

And maybe that’s the point: the city’s social-welfare bureaucracies don’t want competition from individuals, families, churches, and other civic organizations.

It also raises the question: if something as inoffensive as charity isn’t safe from government regulation, what is?

Houston’s ordinance serves as a flagrant reminder to Texans that the utopian notion of “public” property doesn’t actually mean public ownership—its property owned and operated by the government and subject to the rules, regulations, and decrees of its politicians and bureaucrats.

Sign our petition asking Houston officials to take an important step towards restoring common sense by repealing this anti-charity ordinance.

[emailpetition id=”6″]

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.