SAN JOSE — Kim Rennels planned to skip another meal on Sunday, but the 54-year-old homeless woman lucked out when she visited St. James Park.
The San Jose chapter of Food Not Bombs laid out a spread of free vegan food that day, as one by one the hungry stopped by to fill their stomachs with rice, summer vegetable stew, lettuce wraps and bread pudding.
Rennels said she felt better after eating, but hunger isn’t her only struggle. After landing in jail and battling with drug and alcohol use since she was a child, she’s trying to get clean.
“You grow accustomed to it after a while,” she said. “It’s like someone just takes your hand and makes you go with it whether you want to go or not.”
Groups like Food Not Bombs say feeding the homeless in public parks is a gift of compassion, but San Jose city officials and some nonprofits want the practice to stop because of health and safety concerns. As the city tries to revitalize St. James Park, some also argue that the feedings contribute to a pileup of trash in the area and dissuade the homeless from getting services they need.
Activists, though, view plans to crack down on mass feedings as an effort to drive the homeless out of public spaces. They don’t plan to stop feeding the homeless at parks anytime soon.
“What I think is important to realize is that the homeless are just like other middle-class people like everybody else. They enjoy the same things. They have the same desires, the same interests. It’s just that we have a failing economy and people are being forced onto the streets,” said Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs.
City officials notified homeless advocates and church groups in…
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