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Friday, November 14, 2014



By Amanda Brigman, Intern
The Cochran Firm

Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan Park has recently become a hotbed for police activity. However, it is not the criminal activity that usually comes to mind when you hear someone has been arrested. A new city ordinance was passed, and at least six people have been cited or arrested. Who was included in this motley crew? A 90-year-old man, two pastors, and a minor, among others. What was their crime? Feeding the homeless.

Early in the morning on October 22, 2014, the Fort Lauderdale Commission voted on an ordinance that would tighten the laws on humanitarian aid to the homeless population – a growing problem in Ft. Lauderdale. The new law requires a state certified food manager be in attendance when feeding the public outside and making port-a-potties available.  Violation of the ordinance carries with it a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail. The law went into effect on October 31, 2014.

The first citation was on November 2, 2014. The first and most notable of those charged was Mr. Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old has been helping feed the Ft. Lauderdale homeless for over 20 years.  Abbott, as an advocate for the homeless, has already seen the inside of a courtroom. He successfully won a lawsuit against the city of Ft. Lauderdale that sought to keep feeding off of the beaches in 1999. Abbott says he will continue to fight this ordinance as long as he needs to, even if it means going to court again. Abbott was also arrested a second time on November, 4, 2014, as he feeds the homeless in the park on Sundays and Wednesdays.

This ordinance is one of a few ordinances the city has passed that affect its homeless population. Ft. Lauderdale also passed ordinances outlawing storage of personal belongings in public places and toughened their stance on going to the bathroom in public, though the city has plenty of public bathrooms available to the homeless for use.  The mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, Jack Seiler, defended the commission's vote in favor of the new law. Offering that though the new law has caught the attention of the media around the nation, it has the support of the people in Ft. Lauderdale. According to the mayor, this new ordinance provides for a safer and healthier environment for the feeding programs to take place. The city is hoping the homeless will seek out community programs and houses of worship in the area that are offering to feed the homeless indoors. Activists in favor of the new law are hoping this will decrease the homeless in the area, and they argue the old way of doing things just gave the homeless a meal and perpetuated the cycle of homelessness in the area without providing a solution.

Homeless advocates around the city, like Arnold Abbott, argue the city is just trying to drive the homeless out, or hide them out of sight rather than addressing the problem. Abbott's organization, Love Thy Neighbor, Inc. has a priority of feeding the homeless, as well as helping them re-enter society.  Rosemary Servoky was homeless and met Abbott through his feeding program six years ago when she was addicted to crack cocaine.  Now she has completed culinary school and continues to help Arnold Abbott serve the homeless in hopes that she can help someone else.

On November 12, 2014, ten days after the first citation was made, a standoff was underway between the police and Arnold Abbott as he once again prepared to feed the homeless in Stranahan Park. Abbott politely offered the officers some food, which they declined, and Abbott proceeded to open up his food line. Though two churches had offered up their space to Abbott for feeding, he declined. The police were left with no other option but to write him another citation. And then, they left him to continue feeding the homeless of Ft. Lauderdale. Abbott wants everyone to know that he will do whatever he needs to do to continue to feed the homeless, and he will be back next week. Unfortunately, he feels this will end up in court, just as it did before. 

posted by The Cochran Firm at 8:48 AM

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