The grace period at the Houston Public Library for all undesirables is officially over, it seems.
A Houston police officer confronted some members of Food Not Bombs on Monday night - the group serves food to the homeless outside the library - to tell them to start thinking about another base of operation.
"There were some other cops talking to some homeless people about an incident with a drunk woman, so at first it seemed like they were a part of that, but as soon as they started talking to us, it was clear they were asked to come by the library," Nick Cooper, a member of Food Not Bombs, tells Hair Balls. "He said, 'The library called us out here to talk to you guys about finding another place."
About a year ago, a library official told the group that they'd have to move when the new library opened. It did, in May, and Cooper says the group has continued to serve food there, and no one has bothered them until Monday night.
"We're in front of the public library, serving the public. The library right now is trying to prevent the use of that space by the homeless," Cooper says. "They certainly wouldn't be calling in the cops if some yuppies were eating their sandwiches on the ledge."
Food Not Bombs's next scheduled serving is tonight at 8 o'clock. Cooper says the group will set up shop in the same location, and will continue to four nights a week, because the group wasn't given a deadline to move
"There's not going to be a specific night where there's a showdown, they'll just come by and harass us a little bit each time, have a cop car there," Cooper says. "I think it would be helpful to us if we know what [the library] plans to do, because their way of interacting with us is to apparently send out a cop to harass us."
Hair Balls contacted the police department and the library, and as soon as we hear back, we'll let you know what they have to say.
Update: Hair Balls received an e-mail from Sandra Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the library: "The Houston Public Library has been experiencing service-related issues that stem from the feeding activities on our plaza. These issues include the accumulation of trash and debris and the inappropriate use of our grounds as a restroom alternative after hours."
The library called the cops to check out the situation and report back, so the library could "assess our available options."
The next step, Fernandez wrote, is for library officials to meet with members of Food Not Bombs about serving food to the homeless.
-- Paul Knight
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