A Florida city was quick to show how serious it is about its new homeless feeding ban by making an example out of a 90-year-old advocate who’s been helping the hungry for two decades.
Despite heated protests, Fort Lauderdale passed an ordinance early on Oct. 22, restricting charitable groups from doling out meals to homeless people in public, the Sun Sentinel reported. The city wasted no time implementing the law. On Sunday police cited two Christian ministers and volunteer Arnold Abbott, 90, who runs the advocacy group, Love The Neighbor, Local 10 News reported.
The three served less than a handful of the 300 meals they prepared before the police run in, according to the Sentinel.
They each now face 60 days in jail and $500 fines.
"These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don't have a roof over their heads," Abbott, who plans on suing the city, told Local 10 News. "How do you turn them away?"
The new rules, billed as "public health and safety measures," limit outdoor feeding programs to one per city block and must be set up at least 500 feet away from residential properties. Organizers are also required to bring portable toilets for workers, according to the Sentinel.
Making it increasingly difficult for people in need to access food has become the norm in a number of major U.S. cities.
Since January last year, 21 cities have enacted measures to limit feeding homeless people, according to a recent National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) survey. Many resorted to restricting the use of public property and implementing stringent food safety regulations.
Florida remains one of the toughest places to live on the streets, and it’s not just the feeding bans that make it so.
"This violence is prompted by a profound lack of empathy for fellow human beings, the same moral failure that allows our society to tolerate the larger tragedy of homelessness," Jerry Jones, NCH's executive director, said in a statement about the issue last year. "Homeless people deserve our help and protection."
Find out more about Love The Neighbor and how you can support the group here.