PRISON FOR FEEDING THE HOMELESS
Two pastors and a 90-year old man have been arrested for feeding the homeless in public.
The pastors, Dwayne Black and Mark Sims along with Arnold Abbott, an advocate for the homeless, face a 60-day jail term and a $500 fine for breaking a new law passed by the city.
"One of police officers came over and said ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I was carrying a weapon,” Mr Abbott said.
"These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don't have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?”
It is estimated that there are 10,000 homeless people in Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding area.
According to Mr Abbott, who runs a non-profit organisation called “Love Thy Neighbour”, the homeless are drawn to Fort Lauderdale because of the climate.
“The homeless people come here for the weather, they know they won’t freeze to death in Fort Lauderdale,” said Mr Abbott a retired jewellery salesman who won two Purple Hearts as an infantryman in the Second World War.
Fort Lauderdale imposed the new restrictions saying that the move would help tackle homelessness.
The law placed restrictions on where food could be distributed and said volunteer groups were also legally obliged to provide portable lavatories.
Mr Abbott however remains defiant. "They are doing the bidding of the very wealthy, and they are trying to sweep the poorest of the poor under the rug.
"it's outrageous, but I have been fighting for 23 years to feed the homeless and spent 50 years fighting for civil rights in this country.
"I believe everybody has a right to help their fellow man," Mr Abbott told The Telegraph.
The prosecutions reflect a hardening of US attitudes towards the homeless across the country with Fort Lauderdale becoming the 13th city to impose restrictions on feeding the homeless.
Earlier this year, the Washington-based National Law Centre of Homelessness and Poverty released a study showing a sharp rise in punitive legislation.
Examining 187 major cities across the country, the study found that more than half had laws banning sitting or lying down in public – a rise of 43 per cent since 2011.
Laws banning living in cars – often a last resort for people who have been evicted from their homes – had risen by 119 per cent over the same period
“Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity,” said Maria Foscarinis the centre’s executive director.
“Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.”
Leaving religion out of it completely - it is absolutely crazy that anyone, anywhere would be imprisoned for feeding the hungry or helping the homeless.
It is also crazy that the civil authorities in a western "democracy" are responding to poverty, hunger and homelessness by making homelessness - and the feeding of the hungry - crimes!
The USA could spend a small fraction of the money it spends on war and weapons helping the less fortunate in their society.
Of course we already know that the USA is not really a democracy in the truest sense.
But this latest story of a 90 year old man being threatened with prison for feeding the hungry shows very clearly that the law really can be an ass.