The standoff between the City of Fort Lauderdale and groups that are determined to defy a new ordinance that restricts feeding the homeless outdoors shows no signs of letting up with a protest held Tuesday night and more planned for Wednesday.
The protests come as the city is trying to save its image around the country. The city wants people feeding the homeless indoors, or if they are going to do it outdoors under specific rules. Groups led by people like Aaron Jackson said they are just trying to feed the homeless.
No arrests are being made, but court summons are being handed out to people who violate the feeding ordinance. Jackson received his second court summons in as many days for feeding the homeless in front of city hall. The area is not approved by the city for such action.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Jackson said. “You have millions of people go hungry in this country and we should be doing anything to eradicate hunger; not pass laws against those that are hungry.”
The issue recently went viral when 90-year-old Arnold Abbot was cited for feeding the homeless last week. Abbot said the citations weren’t going to deter him from feeding the homeless. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he extended an offer to Abbot hoping to finally bring the issue to an end.
“The city of Fort Lauderdale reached out to them and offered a spot to feed, we offered it to him today,” Seiler said. “He has not gotten back to us.”
Fort Lauderdale offered its Aquatics Complex site at 501 Seabreeze Boulevard as an alternative location for Abbot to hold his feedings. Abbot is currently scheduled to feed more people on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Seiler said the city has received countless emails from around the world from people who are disgusted with the story. One by one, Seiler said he is writing back to show the charitable work the city does. Seiler said most people have replied with apologies.
He also said he didn’t realize requiring the homeless to be fed in safe, secure, and sanitary conditions would be perceived as an attack on the homeless.
“It’s been an interesting whirlwind of a ride because there was such a misunderstanding to what we’re accomplishing to assist the homeless here in Fort Lauderdale,” Seiler said.
Still, while Seiler may be making headway in emails, on the streets, volunteers from Food Not Bombs and other groups still want the ordinance to be repealed. Seiler said there are no plans to change the current ordinance.
“We’re baffled that we offered this as a gesture on the part of the city to say, ‘Hey, we have no desire to city you or issue notices’ We’re hopeful cooler minds will prevail,” Seiler said.