DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said he is willing to drop the fine for the couple feeding the homeless at a local park if they legally obtain proper permits.
Police said Chico and Debbie Jimenez and their ministry, "Spreading the Word Without Saying the Word," have been feeding 120 homeless people at Manatee Island Park every Wednesday for the last year.
"Since we are doing it out of our pocket and donations, you think the city would be thankful we are not using taxpayer money for the feeding," said Chico Jimenez.
The couple was given a few thousand dollars worth of citations for trespassing and having a feeding program without the proper permits, violating the city's ordinance.
"Our goal is to continue feeding the people and blessing the people," Debbie Jimenez said. "We have been giving them backpacks, bicycles and tents. We are not enabling them, we are helping them in a transitional time."
Signs outside of the park clearly state the city's ordinance.
"No one is saying, 'Let's not help someone who is down and out,' but let's do it in a place where it doesn't have a negative impact on the park and on the beach street community itself," Chitwood said.
Chitwood said beach street businesses have complained about the vagrancy deterring the customers. Business owners have asked Social Services to step in to ask the homeless to provide identification and make sure there are no sex offenders in the area.
"I have folks who have invested their life savings in a pastry shop or in a frozen yogurt shop and when they come in the morning, people are passed out ... and they say I have had enough," Chitwood said.
Chitwood also said that safety for the homeless is also a concern without proper regulations for the feedings.
"When you just open up the trunk of your car, you say 'Jesus told me you need to feed someone,' Who is coming in there? Where are the regulations at? And how do I know this church leader isn't a psycho that is poisoning the food?" Chitwood said. "We don't know any of these things."
A lawyer said police will meet to hash out on where the ministry can go to legally do their feedings.
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