Fort Lauderdale, Fla., joins cities restricting feeding of homeless
Late last month, the city of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., passed a series of laws that restricted where organizations could feed the homeless.
On Sunday, when a 90-year-old man received a citation in Stranahan Park, the effects of these new laws came into full view.
Arnold Abbott, who is ordered to appear in court, said that hundreds of homeless people had gathered in the park, and police arrived. Police issued court orders to him and two members of the clergy, who were handing out food. He says he could spend 60 days in jail.
Abbott is a longtime advocate. He says he has been feeding the homeless at a local beach for more than 20 years, and he founded his organization, Love Thy Neighbor, in 1991. He said he will return to that beach Wednesday night — and expects a repeat of Sunday’s interaction with police.
“After I was cited, I took everybody over to a church parking lot,” he said. “We did feed everybody. It wasn’t a complete waste.”
Mayor Jack Seiler told the Sun Sentinel that providing homeless people with a meal perpetuates a “cycle of homeless” in Fort Lauderdale.
David Raymond, who served for nine years as executive director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, said last month that limiting outdoor food service could make sense. Food, he said, should connect homeless people with other services. He noted the tensions that can occur when those providing food bring homeless people periodically to the same place, which can hurt area businesses.
One of the recent laws passed in Fort Lauderdale, aiming to mitigate this tension, will require volunteers to bring portable toilets to all food distribution events.
These rules, Abbott says, are “ridiculous.”
The National Coalition for the Homeless released a report last month called “Share No More,” listing more than 30 cities that have restricted or are taking steps to restrict food-sharing programs. The report aims to correct assumptions about food sharing.
Other cities that have attempted to restrict, ban, or relocate food-sharing programs are Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia and Phoenix, according to the report.