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Jail For 90-Year Old Who Feeds Homeless?

November 13th, 2014

Screen Grab from WPLG story on Arnold Abbott.

Imagine being a 90-year old World War II veteran who, while serving food to homeless people, is surrounded by police and told to “drop … that … plate.”

This is what happened to Arnold Abbott earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has been given two citations (like a ticket), been fingerprinted, fined hundreds of dollars … and is now actually facing jail time.

All for feeding homeless people in a public space.

Mr. Abbott, or Chef Arnold as he’s known, founded an organization called Love They Neighbor , that has helped feed homeless people in the Fort Lauderdale area for over 20 years. He founded the organization to honor his wife who passed away, but who was committed to helping the poor, hungry, and homeless while she was alive.

Mr. Abbott and other volunteers usually serve their food at a beach. And that is part of the problem.

There were  complaint s that store owners, members of the public, and tourists can’t enjoy, or properly use, these public spaces when there are large food lines to feed homeless people.

New rules in Fort Lauderdale make it illegal to use public spaces, like the beach, to feed the homeless. Or if they do use public spaces to serve food, they need to meet extra requirements like being spaced a certain distance from each other and provide bathrooms.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler (pronounced: Sigh-ler) has said flatly, “We enforce the laws here in Fort Lauderdale.”

Others say he might want to focus on actual crimes, not acts of compassion.

Mr. Abbott countered in a  BBC News  interview, “The homeless have the same rights as anybody to come and enjoy the beauties of the beach and eat right by the waterside.”

Mr. Abbott continued in a CNN interview , “It’s man’s inhumanity to man. These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing … The homeless are good people down on their luck.” Many homeless people are themselves war  veterans who have served  our country.

After 20+ years, Mr. Abbott is now supposed to serve his food in specially designated areas, like churches.

Some argue that this is an attempt to keep homeless people out of sight.

Mayor Seiler argues  that he is not against feeding homeless people, just against doing it in public spaces there for everyone.

Mr. Abbott said he has received notes of support from all over the world … and there have been protests outside of Mayor Seiler’s home.

In the meantime, Mayor Seiler and Mr. Abbott continue to try to work this out. Hopefully it won’t result in jail time.

Do you see both sides of this situation? Or do you think one side is more “right” than the other? Do you view Mr. Abbott as a hero or a criminal? Or both, neither, somewhere in between? What about Mayor Seiler? The homeless population? And what about those members of the public also impacted by this? Why does it make a difference to people that Mr. Abbott is 90-years old? How would you solve this problem?

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