Homeless Vet Looks for Food in Trash, Gets Ticketed
James Kelly fighting Houston dumpster diving charge
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2013 6:38 AM CDT

(Newser) – 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.

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Showing 3 of 55 comments
Nov 5, 2014 11:35 AM CST
I am a Navy veteran. These days, many homeless men call themselves veterans so that they can gain sympathy from the public. This man says he does not have i.d. to get any help from the VA. This is an outright lie. If he were to go to the VA and provide them with enough information, they would obtain his DD214 which is his record of military service and provide him with a veteran's health care card which will have his photo and other information on it entitling him to services. He has to provide enough information for them to begin a search which doesn't take very long for the va. I sympathize with him for having to search for food however there are many veteran benefits available to him especially now and his reasoning and excuses are questionable.
Nov 5, 2014 9:26 AM CST
the police and forensic teams can root through your garbage (it's called "curtilage")
Mar 13, 2013 7:02 PM CDT
I hope young people take this as a warning of the kind of thanks that awaits people who put their lives on the line in military service after the military no longer needs them. A society that treats its veterans this way does not deserve to have people volunteering to serve and protect it.