Fort Lauderdale

Advocates to Continue Feeding Fort Lauderdale Homeless After Citations

A 90-year-old homeless advocate was once again cited for violating Fort Lauderdale's new ordinance that bans feeding the homeless when he began handing out meals Wednesday.

Advocate Arnold Abbott resumed his feeding mission Wednesday at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, three days after he was cited, along with The Sanctuary Church Pastor Dwayne Black, for violating a new municipal ordinance that outlaws groups from feeding the homeless in public.

"I think I'm grateful they allowed us to feed before they did this. I think that's wonderful.," Abbott said. "I was surpised they hadn't done it much earlier. They were very gentle and I kinda think they felt a little guilty having to do their job."

Abbott was cited again Wednesday and will have to appear in court.

Abbott, who runs a nonprofit group called Love Thy Neighbor Inc. and has been feeding the homeless for 23 years, was cited Sunday along with Black. They could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

"You can't sweep the homeless under the rug," Abbott said. "There are 10,000 homeless in Broward County, most of them in Fort Lauderdale, and there isn't a rug large enough to sweep them under."

Fort Lauderdale Police said they understand the positions of the advocates and are sympathetic to the homeless but have to enforce the laws.

"We would like to emphasize that the purpose of the ordinance is not to prevent the feeding of the homeless, but to balance the needs of the entire population of the city," Fort Lauderdale Police said in a statement. "The ordinance absolutely allows for the legal, clean and safe distribution of food in the City of Fort Lauderdale."

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said the new ordinance is not meant to stop advocates, but to better serve the homeless.

"We're not a city that lacks compassion or lack kindness," said Mayor Seiler. "We just feel that if someone is homeless on the streets of Fort Lauderdale, we need to get them off the street and in the right places where they can improve their position, their situation."

Seiler said the city wants to help the homeless in a different way.

"Let's try to work with who is on the street and why they're on the street and actually address the problem rather than just enabling them to just remain on the street and not receive the assistance they should be receiving," he said.

Yet Abbott and Black have vowed to continue feeding the homeless.

"I'm awfully hard to intimidate," Abbott said. "I certainly will follow this through until we beat them."

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