Ft. Lauderdale officials are taking heat world wide for the arrest of a 90 year old chef and two religious leaders for the crime of feeding low income and homeless people. They approved a series of anti-homeless measures with the most prominent outlawing the serving of food outside without a permit. Comedian Stephen Colbert roasted the City last night mocked the Mayor for arresting this "perp", Arnold Abbott, for carrying the dangerous weapon of food.
"So clearly he knows what Jesus said in Matthew. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and--look out! The cops are here! Hide the Loaves and Fishes!' And I am glad...they eventually caught up with him."
The National Coalition for the Homeless Sent a letter to the Mayor asking for a re-evaluation of the legislation.
[Full Disclosure: I helped in the drafting of the NCH letter.] Most are focusing on the anti-feeding law and that is appropriate, but there are four other laws including the prohibition against a homeless person to sit down in the public space that are just as offensive. These laws go back to the 1990s when cities were using law enforcement to try to "solve" homelessness. They have failed and in fact, most cities found it only increased the number of homeless people. Repeatedly ticketing homeless people make them unemployable and unable to engage a lease for housing. We have also seen the correlation between a rise in hate crimes directed at homeless people when cities begin to pass laws directed at those without housing. Ft. Lauderdale, by preventing people from being able to eat, goes to the front of the line in legislating hate against a fragile population.
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By the way if you want to express your concern over these extreme laws here is the Mayor's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us a copy of the e-mail if you decide to write neoch (at) neoch (dot) org.