“One in six people struggle to get enough to eat in the United States, according to Feeding America, an organization that works toward hunger relief.” – Al Jazeera
“It’s against the law to eat,
It’s against the law to drink.
It’s against the law to worry,
It’s against the law to think.” – Woody Guthrie
Everything’s against the law? It looks like we’re getting there. Effectively, being poor in my prosperous country is seen as shameful if not criminal, and now even efforts to provide assistance to poor people may be illegal. Helping people only makes them weak, we’re told. Funny … I always thought going hungry makes you weak. And refusing to help those in need makes you despicable. Apparently, I have it all wrong.
[But I’m not the only one. Check the updates below the main article.]
US Cities Criminalizing Sharing Food with Homeless: Report
At least 21 cities have adopted ordinances restricting where and how nonprofits and individuals can share food with homeless people
Common Dreams * Tuesday, October 21, 2014
by Nadia Prupis, staff writer
As the number of U.S. cities criminalizing sharing food with the homeless continues to rise, thus creating burdensome requirements for food pantries and individuals, rights groups are condemning these cities for their focus on punishment over solutions.
A report released Monday by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) found that ordinances which have been adopted in 21 cities target food pantries, individuals, and homeless populations alike by perpetuating harmful myths about the effects of food-sharing, and restricting the ways communities can do it.
“One of the most narrow-minded ideas when it comes to homelessness and food-sharing is that sharing food with people in need enables them to remain homeless,” states the NCH report, Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People In Need (pdf).
“There is the myth that sharing food with low income people enables someone to stay homeless,” Michael Stoops, NCH director of community organizing, told Common Dreams. “Another myth is that these food-sharing programs are not necessary as hunger or food insecurity is not a problem in the U.S. There is a ‘food fight’ going on in downtown America between the interests of economic development [and] tourism, versus people experiencing homelessness and the agencies that help them.”
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the city council is poised to pass an ordinance that would forbid food-sharing nonprofits from setting up shop within 500 feet of residential properties, while any groups that do find a space to operate will not be issued more than one food service license for the same address in the same quarter.
Proposed legislation in Sacramento, California, would require organizations and individuals who wish to use public spaces like parks and picnic areas for food-sharing to buy permits—ranging from $100 to $1,250—several times a year to host those events.
According to the NCH, these ordinances are examples of a three-fold legislative process: restricting the use of public property, imposing food-safety regulations, and community actions targeting homeless rights groups. Other similar restrictions have already passed in cities with large homeless populations in Texas, California, Washington, and Oregon, among others.
“It seems harmless on the surface, but they’re part of a series of laws that criminalizes activities homeless people need to perform in order to stay alive,” Nathan Pim, a volunteer with a food-sharing nonprofit in Fort Lauderdale, states in the NCH report.
In 2008, a federal judge struck down a homeless feeding ban in Orlando, Florida, which he said had “no rational basis” and violates the First Amendment.
“Rather than address the problem of homelessness in these downtown neighborhoods directly, the City has instead decided to limit the expressive activity which attracts the homeless to these neighborhoods,” Judge Gregory A. Presnell wrote in his decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida had argued against the legislation. “Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are the cornerstones of the First Amendment and this ordinance flew in the face of the most basic constitutional rights of people using the parks to share food with the homeless,” ACLU senior attorney Glenn Katon said after the ban was struck down.
But despite the landmark ruling, ordinances against food-sharing—and other activities associated with homelessness, such as lying on benches—have spread.
“These punitive measures involve gross human and civil rights violations,” says homeless rights organization Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).
Stoops added that “the motivation behind such laws is to push people experiencing homelessness out of sight, out of mind.”
The push against food-sharing organizations comes not only from city councils but from local businesses and residents, NCH says, who often “join together to put pressure on local government or directly on individuals and organizations that share food with people experiencing homelessness.”
“These groups are harassed and in result feel compelled to relocate their food-sharing efforts or cut the program [altogether],” NCH says.
WRAP director Paul Boden told Al Jazeera, “Regardless of income and housing status, people are going to perform these activities (like sharing and eating food), but only a homeless person is going to see the inside of a jail cell for performing these activities,” adding that city councils and other local governments are adopting laws that they know people will break.
NCH also noted that many of the individuals seeking help from food-sharing groups are not always homeless—but are on the cusp. Dani Skrzypek, a volunteer at the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg, Florida, states in the report, “When you’re feeding up to 150, that means there is a huge need… many are working people who are paid minimum wage that are trying to pay rent and feed a family. Money is so tight for them; to come and get a meal once a week is a huge help.”
In September, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a report that found that in 2013, despite the so-called “economic recovery,” nearly 50 million Americans continued to struggle with food insecurity.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
*** UPDATE ***
Oh the criminality! Bush, Cheney and all our flagrant war criminals are still at large. And all the big banksters are still living large. But if you want to feed hungry people, you’re dead meat, sucker.
“If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” –Ayn Rand
Well … good for us! By that lofty standard, we should be all but immortal, and we’re getting so fucking civilized it hurts.
90-Year-Old Good Samaritan Arrested for Giving Food to the Homeless
November 4 2014 3:40pm
by Andy Cush
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ninety-year-old volunteer worker Arnold Abbott was arrested this week for preparing and serving a meal to a group of homeless people. He faces a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail, local news outlet KHON reports.
Abbott and the two church ministers with whom he was arrested stand accused of violating a new local ordnance that “effectively outlaws” the distribution of food to homeless people in public places, according to KHON. Abbott said police stopped him in the act on Sunday:
“One of the police officers came over and said ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I was carrying a weapon,” Abbott said.
Also charged was a minister from Coral Springs and Sanctuary Church, pastor Wayne Black.
“We believe very strongly that Jesus taught us that we are to feed his sheep,” Black said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, oblivious to the coming PR disaster, warned that the law would be enforced when it was passed last week. From Fort Lauderdale’s Local 10:
“Just because of media attention we don’t stop enforcing the law,” said Seiler. “We enforce the laws here in Fort Lauderdale.”
Abbott, who seems like a real badass, sued the city and won in 1999 when it banned him from feeding the homeless on the beach. He told KHON that he’s not afraid to go to court again, and said he’ll be back on the street with food tomorrow despite the arrest
*** Second Update ***
Wow. We have damn tough old people in my country. It takes four (4!!) cops to arrest one (1!!) 90-year-old man. Guess the only thing surprising about that is they didn’t send in a SWAT team for the big bust.
90 year old activist arrested again for feeding the homeless in Florida
Daily Kos * Thu Nov 06, 2014 at 11:10 AM PST
byWalter EinenkelFollow forweinenkel
Since 1991, Arnold Abbot has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale. Every week, on Wednesday, Abbot feeds the less fortunate by the beach. Last week Fort Lauderdale passed a stupid law that, in essence bans several humanitarian groups from feeding homeless people on the street.
It comes with a penalty of up to 60 days in jail.
A few days ago, Arnold Abbot and 2 ministers were arrested for preparing and serving a meal to the homeless.
Abbott, who seems like a real badass, sued the city and won in 1999 when it banned him from feeding the homeless on the beach. He told KHON that he’s not afraid to go to court again, and said he’ll be back on the street with food tomorrow despite the arrest.
Well, Abbot isn’t messing around. He’s back out there trying to help people from starving.
On Wednesday, Abbott drew a large crowd of supporters and news cameras as he went about serving those in need in his usual spot on Fort Lauderdale Beach, behind Bahia Mar. The 90-year-old chef has been helping feed the area’s homeless through his non-profit group Love Thy Neighbor Fund.
But soon enough, four police officers approached Abbott to lead him away. As they ushered him through the crowd, chants broke out calling out his name. Others yelled out “Shame!”
The Fort Lauderdale officers watched the group feed the homeless for a good 45 minutes before doing anything. But when Abbott began doing an interview with a channel 10 news crew, the officers moved in and escorted Abbott away from the cameras and issued the citation and took his fingerprints.
You can’t sanitize your dirty laundry and then not offer up any real solutions. Humanity has an inherent need to protect itself and there are always more good and honest people willing to fight to make things right.
*** Third Update ***
And this story isn’t over yet.
*** Fourth Update ***
“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.” –Jessica Mitford
I’m really bad at nobility, but I sometimes feel the need to snarl and swear (loudly!) at the injustice and inddifference constantly assailing us. It’s not enough, but here’s one small way to stand in solidarity with our neighbors, while we may also embarrass a few colossally heartless officials.
Help 90-Year-Old Activist Arnold Abbott Continue Feeding the Homeless in Florida
Care2 Causes * November 26, 2014 5:30 pm
by Ximena Ramirez
Arnold Abbott is a 90-year-old activist who was arrested for serving meals to the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, in defiance of a new city ordinance. You can show your support for Abbott’s compassion and commitment by signing a petition he put together on Care2 with fellow member Randy Mcquade.
For the last 24 years Abbot has been handing out food to the homeless, a tradition he began with his “angel wife,” as he calls her. He even started his own non-profit, an all volunteer organization called Love Thy Neighbor, in her honor.
“The mission of the organization is to embrace “the vision and passion of one woman, Maureen Abbott, who devoted her life to caring for as many poor, hungry, and homeless as she could reach.”
At the beginning of the month, however, tighter city restrictions, including a new measure that requires feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties, has made it difficult for Abbot to continue doing his life work. In fact, he has received a citation and has been arrested for, as he says, “practicing my rights to help my neighbors.”
But Abbott is not deterred:
As long as there is breath in my body, I will continue to serve my brothers in the areas where they can be found. I’m not afraid of jail; I spent two and a half years in war. I am afraid of allowing a law like this to stand…I am trying to allow homeless people to have the same rights as everyone else. There is no rug big enough to sweep them under.
block quote end
And he is not alone. Abbott started his petition with Randy Mcquade, a formerly homeless Florida resident, who is also passionate about the issue as well:
This issue is important to me because people matter! ALL people…I have been briefly homeless twice in my life and I attend church with and am friends with several homeless people. People are people no matter what and deserve to be treated with love, compassion, understanding and respect.
block quote end
With nearly 60,000 signatures, Mcquade has been inspired by his experience starting a Care2 petition:
Writing this petition has affected my perspective on activism by giving me hope. I have always been fairly pessimistic about just what one person can do and the effectiveness of activism, but maybe, just maybe…Regardless of the end result in the city of Ft. Lauderdale, at least we will have made our voices heard and hopefully changed many people’s hearts.
block quote end
You can help turn that “maybe” into a yes by signing Mcquade and Abbott’s petition today to let city leaders know that homeless people are people, too.
*** Fifth Update ***
I’m wondering if Ebenezer Scrooge retired to Ft. Lauderdale. Maybe he and the Grinch are roommates now?
90-Year-Old Vet Arrested For Feeding Homeless Will Hand Out Christmas Eve Dinner
Think Progress * December 24, 2014 at 8:26 am
by Scott Keyes
Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old veteran who has been repeatedly arrested for handing out food to the homeless in Ft. Lauderdale, will be able to give them dinner on Christmas Eve.
In October, the city of Ft. Lauderdale passed a new ordinance cracking down on those who give out food to the homeless in public. Abbott, a veteran of World War II who has handed out meals to the homeless every Wednesday for years, was arrested almost immediately after the law went into effect. He has since been cited two more times for continuing to hand out food to the needy.
Earlier this month, Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch ordered a temporary stay of enforcement for the ordinance so the city and homeless advocates could enter mediation. That stay was automatically lifted last week when the city appealed Judge Lynch’s ruling. Under public pressure, though, the city announced on Monday that it would voluntarily suspend enforcement of the ban during the holiday season. It will take effect again on February 5th barring successful mediation or a permanent judicial decision.
The law’s suspension means that Abbott and others will be able to continue distributing food to the needy over the holidays without being arrested. “We’re going to be there Christmas Eve. We’re going to be there New Year’s [Eve]. Nothing is going to stop us,” Abbott told the Sun Sentinel.
Still, he saw little room for compromise with the city when it comes to doing charity work. “They know they’re in the wrong. They know they’re not going to win.”
Ft. Lauderdale has earned a national reputation for its treatment of homeless people this year. In the span of eight months, the city has passed new ordinances making it illegal for homeless people to sleep in public and prohibiting homeless people from having possessions in public on top of the recent crackdown on volunteers handing out food. The city also arrested a homeless man for speaking out during a meeting where the City Commission honored National Homeless Week.