It’s not easy to rattle Louise Arbour, the Canadian jurist who was the chief prosecutor for tribunals on the genocide in Rwanda and human-rights abuses in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Arbour, now the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, spends her days hearing about humankind at its most bestial.
Yet according to Maria Foscarinis of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Arbour was “visibly shocked” when Foscarinis briefed her this summer about ordinances banning or restricting public feeding of homeless people adopted by a number of U.S. cities, including Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Wilmington, N.C., during the past year. Charitable groups and individuals risk fines and imprisonment in these cities if they “share food with” homeless people in parks, parking lots, and on sidewalks.
Although a U.S. district judge in Las Vegas issued a permanent injunction against that city’s anti-feeding ordinance in late August, human-rights and civil-rights groups have vowed to overturn the bans elsewhere in the country.