Fines in place for those who feed homeless without proper permits

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SALT LAKE CITY -- On Saturday mornings, Lee Castillo spends a few hours cooking breakfast for people who might not otherwise have any.

“Utah winters are awful, and we wanted to make sure that they knew that people out there care about them,” Castillo said.

Last week, he started borrowing kitchen space from the Utah Pride Center for a new homeless youth outreach program.  Using food donated by a local church, Castillo and other volunteers cook up the weekly breakfasts for teens with nowhere else to go.

“The youths were grateful to have Eggos and scrambled eggs and warm food,” Castillo said. “It’s nice to know that there is a place that they can come in and get out of the cold and get a meal.”

But under Salt Lake City’s regulations, he could face a fine.

To hold an outreach event, you’re required to have a Free Expression permit and receive approval of a Waste Management Plan by Salt Lake City. To serve food to the public, the Salt Lake County Health Department must administer a Food Safety Temporary Event Permit.

It’s the last requirement that Castillo could run into trouble with, as he’s never sought a permit to cook food for the program in the center’s kitchen.

“I would be devastated to know that I couldn’t be able to feed these youths that are in dire need to get out of the cold and to get food in their bellies because of a permit I don’t have, Castillo said.

But city officials argue the rules aim to protect those youths.

“If you don’t get the proper permits, especially when you’re handling food, sometimes you can get people sick,” said Elizabeth Buehler, Homeless Services Coordinator for the city.

Homeless shelters, like the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, see the ordinances as a safety net for the people they’re helping.

“If we have to be inconvenienced a little bit by jumping through some hoops to have your event approved by the health department, then it’s a worthy step,” said Chris Croswhite, Executive Director of the shelter.

But for those on the receiving end of the added assistance, the rules are not so helpful.

“I was one of those people who were over there on Pioneer Park and the Road Home,” said Willie Lloyd, who has been going through a substance abuse program at the Rescue Mission for about five months.

Living on the streets of Salt Lake City, Lloyd said, he relied on others to survive.

“Sometimes it was the difference between life or death, whether or not I had the ability to get food somebody was giving to me from the kindness of their heart,” Lloyd said.

City officials said it’s not their intention to police the parks and punish those trying to help others in need. They hope that those interested in serving the public volunteer at one of the city’s shelters currently permitted to serve meals.


  • michelle

    Confused how a permit(a piece of paper) makes you a safer person to serve food to the homeless!
    Even with a permit you can still manage to make mistakes cooking and get people sick!

  • Aubrey

    They should be able to just have a note on their door letting the homeless know the risk that he doesn’t have a “handlers permit” so that these poor people can choose with their own minds if they want to risk eating the food. This is just another control thing that our country is facing. Sad we can’t help people anymore without someone trying to control the situation and ruin it for these people when it’s their last hope.

    • MJ Brewer

      Aubrey, you are completely correct. This free country of ours is less and less free as time passes. The ONLY freedom anymore is enterprise, and it comes at a monetary price. Everything is so money-based anymore we aren’t allowed to feed the hungry unless the correct channels are being paid to “preserve the welfare of the people.”

  • MJ Brewer

    “To serve food to the public, the Salt Lake County Health Department must administer a Food Safety Temporary Event Permit.”

    Anything to make a buck, eh Utah? Even off of feeding the homeless. Wow, that’s certainly God-like, right? Where has our humanity gone, and how can we attend church on Sunday in our nice clothes knowing people are starving while we smile and shake hands? For shame.

  • Tammy

    I see no problem with just health department getting involved and giving this wonderful man a FREE permit to help these homeless people. The state has to look at it this way, Witch is cheaper? Having this good person feed them and give them a warm place to get out of the cold or having to bury these people and then spend the states money to find out who they are after they die of starvation in the cold because of how Utah government reacts to charity! I mean seriously!

  • Trish Ramirez

    Free Expression in SLC – now by permit only. What a joke. Homeless people are starving, it’s so cold that people are freezing to death over night, and the biggest concern is whether people who try to help have the proper documentation. What a bureaucratic joke.

  • Pete Smith

    I think this is a double edge sword! The state should walk by these people that are serving the homeless give them a permit as they are helping people on the spot!! The state idiots who want to micromanage this should also be the ones who have to put in ten hours a week helping and serving the homeless, spending time in the field, preparing food, and spending their own money to help the people who are in need!! We have to encourage a helping hand not fine the helping hand!!! At what point in time do “The people” say enough is enough!!! Unless you serve someone besides your self you will never understand yourself!!!

  • audra1979

    Let’s not be too quick to do away with a standard that would apply to other situations, in which case we’d be grateful there was a standard. It’s not difficult to get this permit. It’s a quick education, and it holds people to certain standards. If the cost is preventing this man from getting a permit, from the responses here I’d bet someone would be willing to pay any associated fees on his behalf.

    • jewlzz

      And I’m guessing you are the first to volunteer???
      I’m waiting for my kids to grow up then I am gone from this hell hole state.
      It’s not going to prosecute mr. wonderful church going swallow but they’re going to harrass this guy for a buck?
      A man who is giving freely of his time to care for those this crappy state won’t?
      Yeah I’m sick to death of being beaten over the head as to who runs this “faith” based state, and what is this states true GOD? MONEY!!!!!
      God bless you Mr. Castillo and as for you stupid greedy bloodsucking government officials? DROP DEAD!!!!!

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