Antoine Taveneaux / Wikipedia

A federal judge has blocked Philadelphia’s effort to ban the feeding of homeless people outdoors.

Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia defended the ban as “part of a broader plan to care for the poor”. He framed the anti-feeding law was part of an attempt to move the homeless into indoor facilities where they could receive physical and mental care in addition to food.

But critics, including four Philadelphia charities that filed a lawsuit, asserted the ban was just a tactic to clear the homeless from land near some of the city’s tourist attractions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.

As an interim step to moving some of the six thousand homeless who regularly spend summer nights on the street, the city arranged for food to be distributed on the outdoor plaza surrounding City Hall.

But in his ruling last month, U.S. District Judge William Yohn said he saw no evidence the city plan to feed the homeless outside City Hall was any better than the way it was being done by the charity groups.

Paul Messing, an attorney for religious groups that challenged the ban, said the ruling showed the city had not come up with a good reason to stop the feedings.

Nutter told the The Philadelphia Inquirer he was disappointed in the ruling.