A 90-year-old man and two pastors in, where else, Florida were arrested for feeding the homeless.
Under the new ordinance, the public is severely restricted on feeding the hungry in the Ft. Lauderdale area. The law, which went in effect on Friday, comes with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
90-year-old homeless advocate Arnold Abbot said of the incident,
“One of the police officers said, ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon. It’s man’s inhumanity to man is all it is.”
The police then proceeded to throw away all of the hot food—with the exception of five boxes of Dunkin Donuts.
Abbot, who runs the non-profit group Love Thy Neighbor, Inc., has been on the wrong side of the law before for feeding the homeless. In 1999, he sued Ft. Lauderdale Beach for a similar law. He won that case, and he plans on doing this same this time.
“I’m going to have to go back to court again and sue the city of Ft. Lauderdale – a beautiful city,” Abbott said. “These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. They don’t have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?”
The new ordinance is not deterring Abbot. He plans on feeding the hungry again this week, even if it means another arrest.
“I don’t do things to purposefully aggravate the situation,” he said. “I’m trying to work with the city. Any human has the right to help his fellow man.”
Two pastors were also arrested for breaking the same ordinance.
In 2012, Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler set out to solve the homeless problem around the city, especially around the Stranahan Park area.
“Families don’t feel safe, people going to the library don’t feel safe, people wanting to use public resources don’t feel safe,” Seiler told the station. “It’s gone too far.”
The city believes the sight of the homeless is affecting tourism, nearby businesses and tarnishing the city’s image, the station reported.
Creating laws to starve the homeless is not the right way to go about solving the problem. Funding homeless shelters, increasing programs to help reestablish those who fail on hard times, and providing psychological help for those with mental illness would all be a more humane way to solve the problem.
Turning your back on those who need help the most, however, is not the solution. Further, criminalizing actions that should be commended is deplorable.