SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- There's concern in San Jose about the city's plan to cite community groups that feed the homeless at a downtown park.
City officials call it a health issue at Saint James Park, but homeless advocates aren't buying it.
Some say the crackdown is unnecessary. "Have we really come to that? A society , you know, to shun those who are in a less fortunate state that we are. And it has broken my heart," San Jose resident Geraldine Padui said.
Faith and community leaders are upset over the possibility of being cited by police for handing out food to the homeless, saying it criminalizes those who just want to help the needy.
"It puts the churches in the crossfire. We have our religious duty to serve the poor. That's what Jesus said, what you do unto the least, you do unto me. So that's our mandate," Cham Deliverance Ministry Pastor Scott Wagers said.
An ordinance banning the distribution of food without a permit at city parks has been on the books since 2005, but rarely enforced.
Homeless advocates were informed earlier this week and told that enforcement would begin sometime in August after an uptick in complaints from neighbors nearby.
The city says the safety and well-being of everyone who visits the park is top of mind. "There are a total of eight kitchens for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the homeless people in the downtown area, with four of those kitchens within walking distance of Saint James Park," San Jose spokesperson Cheryl Wessling said.
This comes as a new report from Santa Clara County shows that homelessness is up by 13 percent over the past two years.
Although the county has made progress in reducing the total of homeless veterans and disabled people, the numbers did go up for families as well as unaccompanied young people under the age of 24.
Housing costs and evictions were among the leading causes. "It's hard. I don't wish it for anybody, for anybody to be homeless," homeless San Jose resident Arnold said.
It's just another example of the poor struggling to survive in Silicon Valley.
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