Fort Lauderdale, Florida enacted a new law recently that, in effect, makes feeding the homeless in public into a criminal offense. And the law is being enforced by police, as promised.
The city charged three people on Sunday for violating the new ordinance, and each of them could face up to 60 days of jail time and a $500 fine for the offense. The offenders include two ministers and a 90-year-old homeless advocate named Arnold Abbott.
“I fully believe that I am my brother’s keeper. Love they neighbor as thy self,” Abbott told KHON 2.
Abbott prepares hundreds of meals each week in the Sanctuary Church’s kitchen for the local homeless. Now he faces criminal charges for violating the new ordinance.
“One of police officers came over and said ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I was carrying a weapon,” Abbott said.
Sanctuary Church pastor Wayne Black, who was also arrested for feeding the hungry, said that Jesus teaches “that we are to feed his sheep.”
Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler insisted that the violators would be arrested and the new law would be enforced as written.
Abbott has fought the city’s laws against homeless in the past. He sued the city in 1999 for banning him from feeding homeless on the beach, and won.
He will continue to fight the new city ordinance, firing up his stove again on Wednesday to share food with the hungry at the beach. He says he doesn’t want to be arrested but is prepared for that possibility.
“I’m going to have to go to court court again to sue the city of Fort Lauderdale, the beautiful city,” Abbott said. “These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. Don’t have a roof over their head, and who could turn them away?”