Chico and Debbie Jimenez are a lovely Christian couple in Daytona Beach, Florida that, for more than a year now, have been feeding the homeless at Manatee Island Park every Wednesday around lunch time. Isn't that great? I'd love to just end this post there with a short congratulations to the Jimenez's on being awesome, and for actually following the teachings of Christ. It always warms my heart to hear of stories like this - of people just doing good things for others and expecting nothing in return. Charity is truly wonderful.
But, of course, I wouldn't be writing about the Jimenez's if this story didn't take a sharp left turn into Whatthefuckville and slam into the Areyoufuckingkiddingme Boutique. Keeping up with state's theme of lawlessness, ignorance, and hypocrisy, the police of Daytona Beach moved in on Manatee Island Park last week and served citations to the Jiminezes and a few of their volunteer helpers, as well as banning them from the park permanently.
Their heinous crime? Serving food in public. 2nd degree misdemeanors all around, with fines totaling $373 a person. One of those persons, by the way, was a man in a wheelchair who had recently been homeless himself, and was volunteering alongside the Jimenezes to "pay it forward." According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal: "The Jimenezes' citations threatened a $273 fine for trespassing and $100 for facility use without a permit." In other words, they were fined for "trespassing" in a park - public land - and for "using" the park for, I guess, enjoyment and charity?
This couple feels that it is their religious duty to help the poor (as all true Christians should), and have been feeding the homeless every Wednesday for over a year with food that they both prepared and bought themselves (with the help of other volunteers and a few private donations, of course). What the fuck is wrong with that?
Luckily for us, Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood graced us all with this real solid explanation that he found lodged some 15" up his rectum (courtesy of NBC News):
"We as a city have spent millions of dollars to turn that park into a place for families, kids and dog lovers," Chitwood said. "We have an ordinance that says when people want to perform acts of kindness or charity that they must coordinate with our local social service agencies.
"They were told (the previous Wednesday) that if they come back there, they would be cited and they could risk going to jail," Chitwood said. "There is a segment of the homeless population that is homeless by choice. I don't want to impugn them all. But some are homeless because they are sex offenders, substance abusers and bank robbers. That's why we ask (Good Samaritans) to coordinate with our social service agencies, because they know who needs to be served."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is half of the reason why this story pisses me off. The police should have no business meddling here, considering the average Wednesday lunch attendance is usually only around 100 people, and there were only around 40 there the day there were all issued citations. That's basically a family reunion. And, I'm sorry, but if I buy food and want to give it to another human being free of charge, the police are not going to stop me. I'm not sure who is more out of touch with reality - the police or the idiots who voted on the ordinance in the first place.
No to mention that (and brace yourself here) the police are possibly lying about warning anyone the previous week. NBC News reports that:
The Jimenezes contend they never were warned to stay away.
“We've been down there a year, and the police have been around and not one of them has ever said one word,” Chico Jimenez said. “This time, the police said we are creating more homeless people by feeding them in the park, that we are enabling them by giving them one meal in a week. Does that make sense to you? It’s so crazy.”
I know exactly what Chief Chitwood is saying. The last time someone gave me free food, I immediately lost all desire to work, have reliable shelter, bath regularly, and use the bathroom without the occasional audience. I mean, free food once a week? Hot damn, sign me up for that!
Needless to say, the Jimenezes and their volunteers are refusing to pay their fines, opting instead to take the matter to court. I really don't see why they can't win this but, again, they are in Florida. Pretty much anything goes there.
Check out some facts on homelessness here, or try to find this supposed ordinance on the Daytona Beach website here (I couldn't). As always, let me know what you think in the comments below!