Why is it Illegal to Feed the Homeless?


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Did you know that somewhere in America, it is illegal to feed the homeless in public?  It can’t be true can it?  It is true in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after the recent passage of an ordinance by the city council.  The real scary part of that news is that Fort Lauderdale is not alone in taking this anti-compassionate stance!

“Over 30 cities across the nation have outlawed or are considering criminalizing the provision of food to homeless people. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, over 20 cities have devised laws against giving food to homeless people since January 2013.” Nation of Change

While I can understand this stance if these cities are adding health guidelines to make such feeding attempts safer, I am shocked that over 30 cities have outlawed it or are considering outlawing the practice of giving food to the hungry and homeless.  Are public picnics next on the hit list?

Why would any city want to stop the feeding of the homeless in public?   Just who are these brigands who are trying to destroy the city of Fort Lauderdale by having the audacity to feed the hungry?

“In an act of compassion and civil disobedience, a 90-year-old man and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale openly defied a new city ordinance barring anyone from feeding homeless people in public. After police intervened and charged them with a crime, 90-year-old Arnold Abbott and Pastor Dwayne Black returned several days later to break the draconian law again. Although Abbott received another citation, police decided not to place him in custody.

Last Sunday, Arnold Abbott, Pastor Dwayne Black of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs fed homeless people in a public park in South Florida two days after the city passed a new ordinance outlawing the provision of food to vagrants in public. After getting arrested, the two pastors and elderly homeless advocate each face a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

“One of the police officers said, ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon,” recalled Abbott. “It’s man’s inhumanity to man is all it is.”

On Wednesday evening, Abbott and Pastor Black remained undeterred as they served a four-course meal to nearly 100 homeless people at Fort Lauderdale Beach. After police officers recorded the simple act of kindness on their video cameras, they escorted Abbott away from the crowd to fingerprint him and issue another citation. Wary of public backlash, law enforcement officials chose not to place Abbott in handcuffs and haul him off to jail again.” Nation of Change

The City of Fort Lauderdale claims that they don’t want hungry and homeless people fed in public because they claim it will only keep them from trying to get out of the cycle of homelessness.  Of course, one has to wonder if the real reason might be related to the tourism trade that brings in big dollars to Fort Lauderdale.  After all, it seems that this latest ordinance to ban the feeding of the homeless in public is just one of the anti-homeless ordinances passed by the city fathers of Fort Lauderdale.

“Backed by the Chamber of Commerce, the recent city ordinance is the fourth law Fort Lauderdale has passed this year against the homeless. The other laws ban homeless people from panhandling at traffic intersections and outlaw sleeping or storing their belongings on public property. According to Pastor Black, the recent food-sharing ordinance passed after a long meeting past midnight after many people had gone home.

“It’s a pubic safety issue. It’s a public health issue,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler rationalized. “The experts have all said that if you’re going to feed them to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you’re doing is enabling that cycle of homelessness.”

One of these so-called experts is Ron Book, a city lobbyist who commended the Fort Lauderdale commissioners for passing the ordinance. Book told the commissioners that feeding impoverished people on the streets merely sanctions homelessness. Book added, “Whatever discourages feeding people on the streets is a positive thing.” ‘ Nation of Change

I just love it when experts turn out to be lobbyists pedaling their bosses wares.  Mr. Abbot has made it his life’s work to help the poor and this isn’t the first time he has fought with Fort Lauderdale over feeding people in public.   He won a court case against the city in 1999 over this same issue and Fort Lauderdale may be looking at another court case over this issue.

While I do understand that large groups of homeless people can impact the look and feel of any city, the realities of how many of these people end up on the streets is no mystery.  However, it seems that Fort Lauderdale would rather punish the poor and the people trying to help them rather than attempt to help solve some of the problems that leads people into the streets.

Mr. Abbott and the ministers have taken it upon themselves to treat these homeless people as humans and strive to provide them with a meal.  Fort Lauderdale gets an early Grinch award for punishing the modern-day Samaritans who are doing the job that Fort Lauderdale refuses to do.  Kudos to these individuals who are risking themselves to help the less fortunate.

I think it is time for the Mayor and the City Council to start rolling up their sleeves and helping feed and house and treat the homeless.  Or get out-of-the-way.  What do you think?


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182 thoughts on “Why is it Illegal to Feed the Homeless?”

  1. It is strange the reasoning behind the ban on feeding homeless. My first guess is that people are rampantly and maliciously poisoning the homeless. According to this article, pigs thing that providing sustenance is a harm to the hungry. What a strange world those pigs live in.

  2. Also.. Fort Lauderdale is the worst place to be homeless. They do not want the tourist to see you on the beach or anywhere else. It’s a city with million dollars houses and luxury cars but I couldn’t find one shelter or person to help me! They claim millions were donate to the city to help the homeless.. That’s BD

    1. I was fortunate enough to drive one of McKienna’s wagons in DC both to pick up donated food and to distribute soup and sandwiches.

      Any one who thinks those homeless lucky ducks are enjoying their vacation is stark raving nuts and probably ought to be committed for their own and everyone else’s safety.

      Remember most homeless are without homes and jobs because of social policies that make it better for the rest of you who are lucky enough to have jobs and a safe place to sleep.

  3. The comment about people getting comfortable being homeless when fed in public places is crazy. Although the food from the pastor or other places that feed the homeless is a blessing and will keep you from starving to desth.. It’s almost inedible.

  4. OMG!!!! To publically feed the homeless….what a terrible crime. God have mercy on these people who make these draconian laws.

  5. Surely, the most obvious way to ‘Help someone out of the cycle of homelessness” is to stop creating that cycle in the first place by not have sufficient affordable housing, by not giving them equal rights to employment as ‘housed’ people, and by not having sufficient support services. The city itself, and any other city that bans feeding the homeless is to blame for perpetuating the cycle of homelessness, as the vast majority of homeless people are not homeless by choice.

    1. I like the last comment…Theres a home dude that hangs out on my front porch from time to time in the mornings..I have gotten to know him,being from the streets myself ,I help him with things …Hes very grateful for breakfast..always says thank you….I told him its no problem….I know its no fun to wear the same socks /clothes for days,weeks,months at a time.I know no one chooses homlessness…circumstance’s happen,low income,pay check to paycheck,financial instability,Job loss,medical,physical/mental impairment,all that and more contributes to being homeless…Also being homeless is not being lazy…Its hard work…and most of the time its life or death in the elements up here in my city of Duluth Minnesota..Many home ppl…die of the brutal winters ,me included (almost) so Does anyone here posting remember the story of Peter in the Bible? Well the wealthy would be wise to read that and maybe second guess their decision to outlaw feeding the homeless…

  6. Please take note that it is supposedly illegal for artists to offer free food and drinks to their patrons unless they first obtain a permit to do so in San Francisco, the city that used to know how to care. At least that is the warning the artists received from the Health Department, or what ever the title is, last spring. Not exactly the same as feeding the homeless, but, in a city that lays claim to embracing the sharing economy it is hard to reconcile the concept of controlling the sharing of food.

  7. I believe that has actually already taken place on the technology front, it simply hasn’t had the complete impact yet.

  8. I just hope that the mayor and none of his anti-homeless law-maker cronies are trying to represent themselves as “Christians,” because this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Christ taught and exemplified by his life and sacrifices. He would be DISGUSTED by these self-involved, heartless, soul-less people! Read your New Testament, you hypocrites!!!!!

  9. Making homelessness illegal is basically making domestics violence legal. Now if a sociopath is at large- abusing his wife- and the woman has a choice between homeless or staying with him- what’s she going to have to choose

    Stay with him.
    We need to make Domestic Violence- not homelessness- illegal.

  10. Predjudice, judgemental,stereotypes
    No one has walked in my shoes,no one knows whole truth, $ to feed animals,give homes,yet we cannot help humans?
    Judging a person when u haven’t walked in their shoes very wrong.
    I have recently ldost my family,death,sorrow,still wrked, divorced, company closed ,hve medical conditions,always wrked hard ,over 45 now, hard obtain job,i lost home,over past yr as single mom trying alone hard,waited til had under 20.00 to my name,swallowed pride,amazing I had go social.serv, took 2 wks got 398. Food stamps, cash 30 days 380. A month i received for food, shelter,for me and my 2 children.no car so yr later still struggling,we take for granted having food,a home family, we take for granted basic needs,try to start over with just a suitcase look into ur home,could u replace every thing from furniture to utensils, recently found out my son,when we counting change to eat,he had for a week seen man sitting outside,homele ss long story but while we then had v.little he giving man half his sandwich,his drink,as my son saw a man had less than he.so my son was committing a crime,? really?think ,yes some lie,beg,steal .I ashamed going to get welfare ,waited til desperate only to find takes weeks,then grateful,yet still given not enough to provide us w.home,buy car,clothing scraping buy basics as fs cannot buy soap,even bathtissue…… try living on 380. Month to give kids home….. also go on try get job almost 50 yrs old w.med.conditions…… b4 judging try think … U say it never happen to U…. think again it could, and welfare never showers u w.$ , the wrkers there overwrked,cannot keep up, i see both sides,been both sides, i still trying dig myself out of the hole of poverty w.little help,but now no longer take 4 granted even small things …..

  11. Wow I have just heard it all this state is a disease stat that any one who is a humanitarian should stay out of. They cut government assistance and then they throw you in Jail because you use your OWEN money to feed the homeless wow please don’t say they are lazy a lot of family’s are homeless. They are down on there luck and they need a helping hand and it is not government helping them, it is one human being helpful to another. I well never visit this state ever. And don’t clams you are true Christians that would be a lie. In the bible Jesus feed the people. shame on all of the states that have these laws on there book. Shame on all who voted for this starve the poor of food and there dignity.

  12. It’s truly remarkable that in a place like Fort Lauderdale Florida where the police refuse to do their jobs a great portion of the time, they’re harassing advocates that want to feed the homeless. I called the police once because someone took my cell phone and they told me “We don’t have the manpower to respond to these types of calls.” Another time a neighbor was in my face screaming and threatening me so the 911 operator could hear, again they did nothing. Finally, I contacted the police on another occasion (This is over a 6 year period by the way) and they said they would send someone out. I waited three hours and nobody ever came, yet 12 will show up to demonstrations and to stop people from feeding the homeless. It’s disgusting!

  13. Y dream can’t come true any more because when I’m older I was going to cope a soup kitchen

  14. Why limit charitable acts, when it takes the homeless off the streets?

    @ john doe

    That is exactly the point. The charitable act in question was NOT taking the homeless off of the streets. They were feeding the homeless in a public park and in fact ATTRACTING the homeless to the area to hang around and await being fed.

    The mere act of feeding the homeless is not the question…..it is the location. Other events are also banned in that area. Not just the feeding of the homeless.

    If you want to feed the homeless you can do it in many other locations. Rent a church hall. Open a soup kitchen. You just can’t do the open air meals in that publicly owned location.

  15. Why limit charitable acts, when it takes the homeless off the streets? Having served others, I find great joy in it; why should the USA government (more of an aristocracy) get in the way of us doing the right thing? File a lawsuit in supreme court!

  16. If we are limited to how and where we are to feed someone, what is next inspections of our backyard bbqs?

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