FT. LAUDERDALE, FL (WPLG/CNN) – It did not take long for City of Fort Lauderdale to make good on the promise to criminally charge those who violate a new ordinance that effectively outlaws groups from feeding the homeless in public.
On Sunday, the city charged three people, including two ministers and a 90-year-old homeless advocate, and they could face up to 60-days in jail for their so-called crime.
“I fully believe that I am my brother’s keeper. Love they neighbor as thy self,” explained Arnold Abbott.
90-year-old Abbott prepares hundreds of meals each week for the homeless in the kitchen of the Sanctuary Church.
“We serve two entrées at every feeding,” Abbott said.
But Abbott’s work now has him in trouble with the law.
He faces possible jail time and a $500 fine for feeding the homeless after he was charged Sunday with violating a new ordinance that virtually outlaws groups from sharing food with the hungry in the city.
“One of police officers came over and said ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I was carrying a weapon,” Abbott said.
Also charged was a minister from Coral Springs and Sanctuary Church pastor, Wayne Black.
“We believe very strongly that Jesus taught us that we are to feed his sheep,” said Pastor Black.
Mayor Jack Seiler warned arrests were coming.
“We enforce the laws here in Ft. Lauderdale,” said Mayor Seiler.
“It’s man’s inhumanity to man,” Abbott said.
Back in 1999, Abbott sued the city for banning him from feeding homeless on beach, a lawsuit he won.
“I’m going to have to go to court court again to sue the city of Fort Lauderdale, the beautiful city. These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. Don’t have a roof over their head, and who could turn them away?” Abbott asked.
Abbott is going to be firing up these stoves again on Wednesday when he has another food sharing plan for the beach. He says he doesn’t want to be arrested but he’s prepared for the possibility.
From the Associated Press: Fort Lauderdale is the latest U.S. city to pass restrictions on feeding homeless people in public places. Advocates for the homeless say that the cities are fighting to control increasing homeless populations but that simply passing ordinances doesn’t work.
In the past two years, more than 30 cities have tried to introduce laws similar to Fort Lauderdale’s, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Mayor Jack Seiler said the law was passed to ensure that public places are open to everyone and stressed that the city was working with local charities to help with the root causes of homelessness.
Fort Lauderdale’s ordinance took effect Friday, and the city passed a slew of other laws addressing homelessness in recent months. They ban people from leaving their belongings unattended, outlaw panhandling at medians, and strengthen defecation and urination laws, according to Michael Stoops, director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Other cities are conducting routine homeless sweeps while some have launched anti-panhandling campaigns, according to the coalition. And many laws continue to target public feedings.