Houston Health Department

Charitable Feeding Frequently Asked Questions


Why does Houston want to register charitable food service of the homeless?

First and foremost, the city wants to ensure that homeless individuals have sufficient wholesome food to meet their needs. Because of the previous lack of coordination, too much food was distributed on weekend mornings to certain locations over-serving a group of people while no food was available at other times of the day and days of the week. Hopefully, enough organizations will register and, through coordination, we can improve the safety and availability of more food for the homeless.

Outdoor food service operations should be an additional opportunity to assist a homeless person to access services that may enable them to acquire housing, treatment, training or any other service that could improve their life.

The city also has an obligation to reduce the frequently negative aspects of outdoor food service operations such as litter, waste and congestion. Participants in the voluntary registration program commit to manage their litter, and coordination will expand the availability of food delivery locations.

Do I have to participate in the voluntary program if on private property?

Food service activity conducted on one’s own property is not covered by the ordinance. There is no penalty for food service operations outside of the voluntary registration program.

Does anyone support this ordinance?

Yes. Participants have been surprised to learn in some cases their food service activities were being duplicated and their food was being discarded by the homeless. Organizations attending the food service training classes report that they never realized how complicated the problem of homelessness was and they are grateful for the training about food and services. Participants have also recognized that the opportunities to provide food are not restricted to downtown; their services are also needed in other areas of the city and county. Organizations that conduct food service inside their facilities appreciate the coordination of volunteers and the fact that the volunteers are more informed about referral possibilities. The homeless themselves report more confidence in the safety of the food from the registered providers. Property managers in some of the hardest affected areas of town report slight improvements since the initiation of the program July 1.