Teenager not allowed to sell hot dogs now homeless

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Angelica Malik Contributor
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Nathan Duszynski, a 13-year-old whose hot dog cart was shut down by city officials in Holland, Mich., is now homeless, along with his disabled parents.

Nathan had saved up money for a hot dog cart to help his parents pay their bills. His mother suffers from epilepsy and his father suffers from multiple sclerosis, limiting their ability to work.

The family survives on $1,300 a month in disability assistance, food stamps and medicaid, but has struggled to stay afloat.

“Nate and I are now in a shelter,” Nathan’s mother Lynette Johnson told MLive.

“[Nathan’s father] can’t stay with us because he takes prescription narcotics to deal with his pain and the shelter does not allow him with those kinds of drugs,” she said.

The 13-year-old had worked out an arrangement to sell hot dogs in the parking lot of a local sporting goods store. His mom felt the location was great since it was on private property, so his age wouldn’t be an impediment.

Before opening up shop, Johnson said, they stopped by city hall, just across the street from the cart’s location, to ask if they needed a permit to sell food. His mother explained that a woman at city hall told her no permit was necessary.

The business was short-lived and the city of Holland shut down the stand 10 minutes after it opened. Zoning officials cited laws that prohibit food carts in the commercial district that are not connected to downtown brick and mortar restaurants.

Mayor Kurt Dykstra turned down the family’s appeal to city council last week, saying that it was to protect downtown restaurant owners who had asked that the “success of the downtown district not be infringed upon by those who don’t share in the costs of maintaining the attractiveness of that space.”

In a statement, the city explains:

The downtown business owners annually pay substantial assessments (often reaching into the thousands of dollars) for improvement and maintenance of the free parking lots, amenities and events, and “snowmelt” to keep the downtown alive and well – and these assessments are on top of their regular property taxes.

With that in mind, it is understandable that these businesses, historically at least, have been reluctant to allow mobile vendors into the downtown area to benefit from the environment the brick and mortar businesses have created, compete with them for customers, but not contribute to the substantial capital and operational costs of the downtown.

Nathan and his mother are currently staying at Holland Rescue Mission. His father, Doug, is living in a friend’s pole barn.

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