Debbie and Chico Jimenez openly admit committing the act that earned them two citations apiece: feeding more than 100 people who are homeless in Daytona Beach.
Police in Daytona Beach also threatened them with arrest and incarceration, if they offer any more of their home-cooked meals at Manatee Island Park, a gathering the Jimenezes say they’ve hosted every Wednesday for the past year.
“The worst thing is, these are people we have grown to love, they’ve become like family to us, and now we’re not allowed to go down and do that anymore. It’s just heartbreaking. I have cried and cried and cried,” said Debbie Jimenez, 52, a retired auto parts store manager. She and her husband, 60, a retired construction manager, operate New Smyrna Beach-based ministry called “Spreading the Word Without Saying a Word.”
“One of our (homeless) friends said that Wednesday is just not going to be Wednesday anymore,” Debbie Jimenez added. “We were given 10 days to either pay the fine or tell them we’re going to court. We’re going to court. The police don’t like it. But how can we turn our backs on the hungry? We can’t.”
In all, police officers ticketed six people, including four volunteers who helped the Jimenezes on Wednesday – one of them, a man in a wheelchair who recently escaped homelessness and participated “to pay it forward,” Debbie Jimenez said. The fines levied by authorities total $2,238.
But Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said the Jimenezes had been warned one week earlier to stop their weekly feeding sessions after local residents complained that some homeless people gathering in the park were defecating and urinating on the grounds, and that some were showing up drunk at dawn.
“We as a city have spent millions of dollars to turn that park into a place for families, kids and dog lovers,” Chitwood said. “We have an ordinance that says when people want to perform acts of kindness or charity that they must coordinate with our local social service agencies.