Ft. Lauderdale, FL Homeless Feedings and Food Not BombsThere are people getting arrested and cited for conducting public feeding of people in need in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Here is a blog started by supporters of homeless advocates in south Florida:
And a video of a supporter who is on hunger strike:
For years, I participated in public feeding actions in Gainesville, FL with Food Not Bombs. From their website:
"Even though we [FNB] provide meals and groceries to thousands of people we are not a charity. Food Not Bombs is trying to inspire the public to participate in changing society and focus our resources on solving problems like hunger, homelessness and poverty while seeking an end to war and the destruction of the environment. We are also showing by example that we can work cooperatively without leaders through volunteer effort to provide essential needs like, food, housing, education and healthcare. When over a billion people go hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?"From what I've learned about homelessness through the efforts of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the efforts to build permanent housing for the homeless at Quixote Village here in Thurston County, there are many situations and classes of people where people fall into a state of need.
Some of the services provided in Broward County probably meet the needs of some of the homeless and hungry but I'm sure there are many others who can't access those services or for whatever reason choose not to. For a start, there could be a long discussion about untreated mental illness and how it contributes to people becoming homeless and hungry.
Compassion should be the overarching impetus for providing those in need the food and shelter that are human rights. If the City of Ft. Lauderdale is so worried about providing a safe place for feeding those in need, if it were me, I would err on the side of allowing these feedings to continue, instead of stopping what are simple acts of compassion between human beings. There seem to be people in need slipping through the services already provided by the city and to punish people who are trying to fill those cracks is misguided authority.
Here is an email I sent to Mayor Jack Seifer last week . . .
From: Howard Rosenfeld [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 1:20 PM
To: Jack Seiler
Dear Mayor Seiler,
You should be ashamed of yourself for arresting people who feed homeless people, who have nothing. I think you need other, more important things to do - like use compassion to help people, instead of putting them behind bars.
I respectfully request that your drop all charges against Arnold Abbott and continue allowing him to feed people who are hungry.
And his reply . . .
On Nov 5, 2014, at 1:21 PM, Jack Seiler
Thank you for your email. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify much of the misinformation that has been prevalent in the media recently regarding the homeless.
Contrary to reports, the City is not banning groups from feeding the homeless. We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community. The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner.
At a recent outdoor food distribution, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety. Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody.
Experts agree that homeless individuals need more than just food. The homeless need shelter, clothing, and comprehensive medical and social services in order to help them get back on their feet.
To set the record straight, few cities have done more for the homeless than Fort Lauderdale. We are taking a comprehensive approach by working with numerous agencies, non-profit, charitable and faith-based organizations that, like us, are dedicated to effectively addressing this complex and important issue. Our overarching goal is to provide a long-term comprehensive solution for the homeless population. While aiming for that goal, we are concurrently working to protect public safety and maintain quality of life for our neighbors, businesses and visitors.
Our efforts include:
* Fort Lauderdale was the first City in South Florida to establish a dedicated Homeless Assistance Unit as part of its Police Department. This Unit makes approximately 8,000 referrals a year working with the homeless to provide them with access to housing, critical medical care and social services. The award-winning initiative stands as a model that has been replicated by local, state, and national police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country.
* Fort Lauderdale is home to the only full service comprehensive Homeless Assistance Center in Broward County. The Center has been operating here since 1999. Last June, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance allowing the Homeless Assistance Center to expand its size and scope of operations to accommodate more beds and serve more homeless.
* The City maintains an active partnership with Mission United, an organization dedicated to providing housing and social services to homeless Veterans.
* In addition to Mission United, the City maintains partnerships, provides resources and support to Broward County, the Broward Partnership for Homeless, Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Salvation Army of Broward County, United Way of Broward County, Hope South Florida, and the Task Force for Ending Homelessness. These partnerships represent an outstanding example of how homelessness needs to be addressed - by bringing together a variety of agencies and organizations to collaborate, share resources, and leverage strengths in a unified effort to comprehensively impact homelessness through the coordination and delivery of essential programs and services.
* Fort Lauderdale is the only city in South Florida and one of 235 communities in the United States taking part in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort to move disabled, chronically homeless people from the street to a place of their own. Using the motto "Housing First," the campaign reverses the traditional approach that required the homeless to go through addiction counseling and job training before earning a roof over their heads.
* Through the Housing First program, Fort Lauderdale is providing the most vulnerable homeless individuals with housing, medical, and social services. The program is funded by a $441,000 federal grant that the City of Fort Lauderdale secured from HUD. It is currently providing permanent supportive housing for 22 chronically homeless people.
* The City is proud to report that our initiative was recently re-funded by HUD. During the current year, we will have an additional $455,000 to continue to operate and expand this effort to serve even more chronic and vulnerable homeless in our City.
As part of our comprehensive strategy, the City has passed new ordinances that aim to reduce the public safety hazards and inappropriate nuisance activities that are negatively impacting our community. As a City, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our public spaces are accessible and can be safely enjoyed by everyone - families, children, residents and visitors.
Our quality of life in Fort Lauderdale and our economic viability are directly linked to our stewardship of public spaces. The City continues to provide leadership in the implementation of innovative ideas to protect our quality of life while ensuring continued funding for programs and initiatives that address humanitarian needs.
The City, our neighbors, and our businesses have a long and distinguished history of compassion toward those in need.
If you would like to make a contribution to local non-profit agencies that help fund homeless assistance, substance abuse, and community support services in Fort Lauderdale, please visit our website: www.fortlauderdale.gov/give
Again, thank you for your interest in this important humanitarian issue.
John P. "Jack" Seiler
City of Fort Lauderdale
I invite anyone who reads this to respond to the mayor to explain how their new food sharing laws are hurting the efforts to address homelessness, instead of helping it.