In many U. S. cities, the homeless gather under overpasses and bridges and wherever they can find a bit of shelter. They are also known to gather together in areas other than shelters to receive a good meal.
Such is the case in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Or, it was until the city passed laws that restrict where organizations can feed the homeless. Last week, 90-year old, Arnold Abbott felt the full effect of these laws, and now faces up to 60 days in jail.
Each week, the homeless gather in Stranahan Park where Abbott and other clergy members feed them. This past weekend, hundreds had gathered; the police also showed up to enforce the new laws. They issued citations to Abbott and two clergymen who were giving out food, and they are ordered to appear in court.
Abbott has been feeding the homeless for 20 years at the local beach. He founded a non-profit organization, Love Thy Neighbor, in 1991. Mr. Abbott says that in spite of the citation, he will again show up at the park mid-week to feed those who come. He expects the police will be there again.
He says that after police broke up the group, they walked across the street to a church parking lot, where they continued handing out food.
This topic has become a hot issue in several cities across the country. David Raymond, executive director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust supports the new law. He says that food programs should connect the homeless with other services.
One of the new Fort Lauderdale laws requires that volunteers bring portable toilets to all food distribution events.
Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia and Phoenix are other cities attempting to ban or relocate food-sharing programs.
What do you think? Should laws decide when and where we help the less fortunate?