A viral video purporting to show Houston police officers throwing away food and blankets intended for the homeless has sparked widespread outrage. However, the story is false, and officers from Houston Police and city officials are aiming to set the record straight.
The news was first reported on leftist publication The Anti-Media and later spread to anti-establishment publications like MintPress News and Zero Hedge. The reports stated that activists who were handing out donations to the homeless were shocked when Houston police showed up and “forced the homeless to throw away the donations.”
The videos released by the activists come with accompanying commentary, alleging that Houston police officers brought a waste disposal truck to the location.
“I was just informed that a group of people came to pass out free food and other gifts to the homeless in downtown Houston,” wrote Cha’Mira L. Keener on Facebook. “Not only were the police called, but they brought a large waste management truck and are forcing the homeless to throw away their food, pillows and other items.”
The reports went on to say that police were acting on the orders of a 2012 City of Houston ordinance that prohibits the sharing of food, dubbed the “Anti-Feeding” ordinance by its critics.
While the homeless population is without a doubt a problem for the city, Houston police are disputing the narrative in the videos and the activist reports that followed.
“HPD officers were not out there discarding people’s property,” said Captain Wendy Baimbridge in a statement to KHOU. Baimbridge oversees the department’s Homeless Outreach Team. “They need to know that, that was not the case. They weren’t taking food from individuals and throwing it away. That was not the case.”
The police spokesperson says that the items the police discarded were only those that were left behind on the sidewalk as trash and did not belong to anyone.
“It can be food, it can be just you name it. If we didn’t take the property, it would be a health issue,” Baimbridge said.
Other officials say that a lot of the donations go to waste because so much is given during the holiday season, and that the city sends a waste disposal truck to pick up discarded material.
“Especially during the holiday season, so much is given so much is given to individuals on the street, a lot of it goes unused and stays there on the streets,” Marc Eichenbaum, Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives, told KHOU.
“What those folks need more than just a sandwich or loose change is they need housing and a job and that’s what we’re working on.”
It’s easy to get worked up by news of police abuse, and in some cases, the outrage may even be warranted. But when real stories are unavailable, anti-establishment radicals concoct fake stories that do not serve the public—least of all the homeless people they claim to help.