With California facing a massive homeless crisis, 12 volunteers decided to take up a collection of food and other needed items, and distribute them to a homeless population at a public park on Sunday (see video below). The 12 do-gooders are now facing misdemeanor charges, as El Cajon police were not in favor of their deed.

The twelve people cited, including a 14-year-old girl named Ever Parmley, distributed food, clothes, shoes and toiletries at Wells Park. Police say that they are in violation of a municipal code 1.28.010, which dates back to October 2017 and was set in place to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A. The city says the ordinance  prohibits the sharing of food in public places.

“I was passing out food and this guy was like can you step aside please,” Parmley told NBC 7.

Another volunteer, Charles Marks, told NBC 7, “I’ve been given a court date under the impression this represents being arrested on a misdemeanor, but it’s just a citation.”

The cited volunteers each have scheduled court dates, and may face a $1,000 fine, or even jail time.

NBC 7 reports:

In November, NBC 7 talked with councilmembers after signs were posted at Wells Park about the ordinance.

Councilmember Ben Kalasho told NBC 7, “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 afterward.”

Kalasho continued, “you can go out there, pick them up, take them back to your house and feed them and board them and room them and have them take a shower if you’re really wanting to help.”

The City of El Cajon told NBC 7 the ordinance is meant to be temporary until the County lifts the emergency health declaration on Hepatitis A. In a statement, the city also said there are over a dozen locations in the area that serve free food to the homeless.

“If I’m going to be arrested for something, let it be for feeding the homeless,” said Matthew Schneck, one of the citizens who was cited on Sunday. “I’m not going to apologize for doing the right thing.”

The 12 cited volunteers said they plan to take legal action against the city of El Cajon. An attorney representing them, Scott Dreher, plans to file motions to dismiss the misdemeanor charges and file an injunction against the city, as he believes the motive behind the ordinance is an attempt to get the homeless out of the city.

“It was really a disguise,” said Dreher. “People were complaining homeless people will come to the park if you give them free stuff.”

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