Homeless Vet Looks for Food in Trash, Gets Ticketed
James Kelly fighting Houston dumpster diving charge
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
James Kelly, a nine-year Navy veteran, was ticketed in Houston last week for trying to find something to eat. Kelly, who is homeless, was looking for food in a trash bin near Houston’s City Hall when a police officer charged him with “disturbing the contents of a garbage can in (the) downtown business district,” the Chronicle reports. Supporters of the 44-year-old are criticizing Houston’s recent efforts to regulate the feeding of the homeless, which they see as the impetus for the ticket. (Good Samaritans are prohibited from giving food to the homeless, News 92 FM adds.)
“Now, when they try to feed themselves any way possible, they make that a crime as well,” says the attorney representing Kelly. “It’s crazy to have a law where you can’t look through things that are being discarded. People are always looking for cans and so forth—that’s part of recycling.” But Houston city officials say a charitable food service event was going on downtown at the same time Kelly was going through the trash, and the HPD said in a statement that “an officer has probable cause to issue such a citation when a person is seen opening a lid and rummaging through contents of a dumpster or trash can.” Kelly, whose military service could not be independently verified, says he lacks the ID needed to get help from the VA.