Another group that was intent on feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale was stopped by police in Stranahan Park along Broward Boulevard Friday night. The incident is the latest in a battle between groups trying to feed the homeless and the city of Fort Lauderdale.
Three members of the group “Food Not Bombs” were taken into custody for serving food to the homeless on Friday. The group was taken in under a new ordinance in Fort Lauderdale that made it illegal to serve food outdoors to the homeless in Fort Lauderdale.
Earlier this week, 90-year-old Arnold Abbot was cited twice for feeding the homeless. Abbot said he’s been doing it for years and will continue to do it in defiance of the ordinance.
The backlash has been swift since Abbot’s arrest hit the news. It’s put Fort Lauderdale in the spotlight while other agencies and departments are distancing themselves from any association with the new ordinance.
“I don’t want to judge the Fort Lauderdale City Commission and the way they’ve done things, but it’s not the course of action I would’ve chosen for Broward County,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. “I would’ve gone in a different direction.”
The county has received calls and complaints about the controversy in Fort Lauderdale. Sheriff Israel took to social media to reinforce to people that his department has nothing to do with the city commission’s decision.
“There are people out there who are able to give a meal to homeless people, I have to support that,” Israel said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler defended the city in multiple press releases, arguing that feeding the homeless only puts a Band-Aid on the problem.
“We’re not a city that lacks compassion or lacks kindness,” Seiler said. “We just feel if someone is homeless on the streets of Fort Lauderdale, we need to get them off the street and into the right places where they can improve their position, their situation.”
Fort Lauderdale has drawn negative publicity in the past about how it deals with the homeless. A few years ago, the city offered homeless residents a one-way bus ticket to leave the city if a family somewhere else would take them in.