I'm happy for you, Tucson. No, really, I am. I'm glad the Tucson City Council voted unanimously in early December to include an urban agriculture text amendment to the city's code so folks can raise chickens and grow more veggies in their backyards. Clarification was needed and it was a labor of love for many people working on this going back to 2009. Someday, I'd love to have chickens and I'll finish getting a new garden bed in next month.
However, at that same city council meeting, another vote took place that places new rules on homeless in our community. In order to feed or distribute food to homeless in Tucson, you're going to need a health permit. Those permits are free of charge and can be denied by the county's health department—although the permits are not required on Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
The other rule is how much stuff a homeless person can have with them on sidewalks—bikes, backpacks, sleeping bag and other belongings. There's a restriction now—4-cubic feet with those items being 5 feet from the curb. No one is allowed on the sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
I'm not sure if any chicken people spoke out against the new homeless rules or that Tucson, like many other cities across the country, is continuing to go about the work of criminalizing its homeless. I know chicken people—hope you don't find that derogatory—and they tend to be the kind of people who care about others less fortunate and the general good of the community. Let's test that theory. Are you up for what I'm calling the Chicken Challenge? By the second week of January, the homeless rules will be in place. Get together with some friends. Go to the health department and take out a free permit. Head out to a park and feed some people. Let us know how it goes.
Put your chicken and veggie-loving hearts to good use and challenge our city's criminalization of the homeless. This is our Local Heroes issue. Inside we feature lots of wonderful people doing good in Tucson, including homeless advocate Michele Ream. Read about her huts project. If we are heading down the path of getting rid of those unsightly homeless on our street with their belongings, seems like Ream's project is more important than ever. Go here to learn about them, www.csstucson.com.
— Mari Herreras, firstname.lastname@example.org