Feeding the homeless in Myrtle Beach goes to court again

A dispute over where and how people can feed the homeless in Myrtle Beach went to court Wednesday.

The case came after the city cited a group who had been feeding the homeless in Chapin Park without a permit.

At the Horry County courthouse, Judge Culbertson ruled in favor of the city, explaining that the city's ordinance was consitutional.

Lawyers for the city argued that the ban is in place so the city can control its parks and make sure unsafe food isn't served. One of the group's volunteers, Richard Hopkins, took the case to court.

Hopkins was represented by Susan Dunn, the legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina.

Dunn argued that if food safety really was an issue, then what about things like family reunions in parks. She added that there have never been any reports of any of the homeless people getting sick from the food, calling this case one of freedom of expression.

"This is one of those things that government, whether it's Myrtle Beach or anywhere else in the United States, is always balancing. Those spaces that are controlled by the government tend to also be the spaces that are critical public forums so the fact that it's a government is all the more reason why free speech should not be limited there," Dunn explained.

Dunn added that she and Hopkins haven't decided whether they will appeal the judge's ruling.

We also reached out to city spokesman Mark Kruea but he said the case speaks for itself.

This case comes after the group first went to court back in July. At the time, a judge waived the fine, but Hopkins was found guilty for not having a permit to host the mass feedings.

The city does let groups apply for permits to use the park for mass feedings but it limits groups to four times a year.

Groups in Myrtle Beach are allowed to feed the homeless on private property, as long as they have the property owner's permission.