Cities are increasingly getting tough on food distribution programs for the homeless. According to the Sun Sentinel, a 90-year-old activist and two pastors from two churches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were arrested at a park on Sunday and then again on Wednesday for doing what they’ve been doing there for years: serving meals to the homeless.
On Oct. 22, the city’s commissioners passed a measure that requires feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties. Only one group is allowed to share food with the homeless per city block.
As we reported in October, a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless found that since 2010, there has been a 47 percent increase in the number of cities that have passed or introduced legislation to restrict food sharing.
The measures tend to take one of two forms: new rules on the use of public property (as Fort Lauderdale has done) and new food-safety regulations.
Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale activist, began offering food to the homeless living on the city’s beaches in the 1990s. Then he formed his own nonprofit, Love Thy Neighbor, and has continued to serve food twice weekly to the homeless at the beach and in a park.
“These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing; they don’t have a roof over their heads,” Abbot said Wednesday. He added that a police officer ordered him to drop the plate of food he was holding, as if it were a weapon, the AP reported.
If convicted, the Sun Sentinel says, Abbott could receive a sentence of 60 days in jail or a fine of $500.
“I know I will be arrested again, I’m prepared for that,” Abbott told Fox News. “I am my brother’s keeper, and what they are doing is just heartless. They are trying to sweep the poorest of the poor under the rug.”