Homeless Advocates in El Cajon Plan to Feed the Needy Despite Ban

A group plans to feed the homeless in Wells Park this weekend, regardless of a ban in El Cajon against feeding the homeless

Homeless advocates are planning an act of defiance this weekend after a ban was issued in El Cajon that prohibits feeding the homeless in city parks.

Signs are now posted at Wells Park saying there's an ordinance in place banning any form of feeding the needy unless you have proper permits.

The city told NBC 7 it's a move to try to stop the spread of Hepatitis A, but homeless advocates are not buying it.

A homeless advocacy group plans to resist the ban with a huge feeding event Sunday at the park.

"They're kind of throwaway people for a lot of our society and we don't want to see them. But we need to see them. We need to address any acts that criminalize them," said Mark Layne, an activist for the homeless, who is spearheading the event.

The city has dealt with some pushback since putting the ordinance in place.

Councilmembers want to make it clear it's not a ban on feeding the homeless, just solely in public parks.

"What we're saying is feeding them at city parks is a bad idea given the situation that we're in with the Hepatitis A outbreak and the fact that it makes the place completely messy afterwards," said El Cajon City Councilmember, Ben Kalasho.

Councilmember Kalasho encouraged locals to buy gift cards for the homeless to use at area restaurants instead of partaking in the act of defiance at Wells Park.

The group, however, is charging forward with their plan, handing out lunches and toiletries to anyone in need. 

The city told NBC 7 another reason the ban was put in place is because as many as 10 mass feedings for the homeless were happening at Wells Park each month, and trash was being left all over. The city had to pay thousands of dollars for crews to clean it up. 

Police will be on hand for the demonstration but it's unclear if anyone will be ticketed for breaking the law, the city said.

The latest numbers show El Cajon has close to 700 people living on the streets.

As of Nov. 8, there have been 546 cases of Hepatitis A reported in San Diego County, including 369 hospitalizations and 20 deaths. This map, created in mid-October, shows where those cases have been. As of Oct. 17, El Cajon's 92020 area had the second-highest number of Hepatitis A confirmed cases in the county, with 29.

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