EL CAJON, Calif. – Activists who are a part of a group who feeds homeless people at an El Cajon park were cited Sunday.
The city of El Cajon banned food sharing events in public spaces, including parks to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A. The ban has been in place since October.
Despite the ban, a group known as Break the Ban held their fourth food sharing event at Wells Park located1153 E Madison Avenue Sunday. Organizers said each gathering seems to grow and attract more people in need.
“This park is part of city property, so you’re not allowed to food share. If you guys continue to food share then you are subject to arrest,” an El Cajon police officer said.
“If you are having a birthday party here that’s perfectly legal you may feed anyone you wish at a birthday party. Your soccer team, they win, they come here let’s have a pizza party, no problem that’s completely legal," event organizer Leslie Gollub said. "The only people not allowed to be served in this park and all of El Cajon are the homeless."
“That is a basic human right to have food,” said Nicole D’Angelo, another event organizer. “Hepatitis A is spread by human feces and not washing your hands after you use the bathroom. Not only does the city have the restrooms closed where there is no running water to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, there’s also trash here contaminated with human feces not being picked up by the city. That’s what spreads Hepatitis A, not by feeding people."
Nine people cited and face misdemeanor charges, according to a city official.
Since the beginning of 2018, there have been 577 reported hepatitis A cases linked to the outbreak, the start of which was traced back to November 2016.
The rate of new infections has slowed in recent months: From May to September, there was an average of 84 cases per month. There were seven cases last month, according to county health officials.
Of those sickened by the disease, which attacks the liver, 20 have died, but none recently.
Hepatitis A usually is transmitted by touching objects or eating food that someone with the virus has handled or by having sex with an infected person.
The disease doesn't always cause symptoms but can cause fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, stomach pain, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools and diarrhea, according to the HHSA.
The county and city governments across San Diego County have taken several steps to address the outbreak, including spraying a sanitizing formula on streets and sidewalks, placing portable hand-washing stations and restrooms in areas where the homeless congregate and stepped-up immunization campaign.