San Diego’s reputation took a battering in late 2017 for local officials’ slow reaction to a hepatitis A outbreak, primarily among the homeless, that led to 20 deaths and nearly 600 infections in the county.

City and county governments finally got their acts together, providing more bathrooms and hand-washing stations and making hepatitis A vaccinations more readily available, among other actions.

Now another local city is in the global spotlight for its treatment of the homeless. El Cajon, California, officials are being scorned after at least a dozen people, including a 14-year-old, were arrested and given misdemeanor citations Sunday at Wells Park after they gave food to the homeless. That violates the City Council’s temporary ban on the distribution of free food at public places, ostensibly to combat hepatitis A in the city where 32 infections were reported and where the local outbreak may have begun.

Some reasonable people argue that giving food to the homeless should be part of a coordinated approach that gets them on the right track. But banning such acts of kindness on public health grounds invites suspicion that El Cajon officials’ real goal is to drive the homeless away. The city must do better.