In Fort Lauderdale a city ordinance that outlaws feeding the homeless in public has come into effect. Violating this ordinance can result in up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Arnold Abbott, a 90 year old man was one of the first to be arrested and forced to stop feeding the homeless. Abbot was told to “Drop that plate immediately” as though it were a weapon, he explained. Along with the new ordinance, Fort Lauderdale has also made it illegal to sleep in public places and beg for money at major intersections.
The city has yet to realize that these “homeless people” are human too. Without efforts of good Samaritans such as Arnold Abbott, who do these people have to turn to? This brings up a huge humanitarian conflict that is forcing the local police department to infringe on helpless human beings receiving help (food, water, etc) and to arrest those assisting them. All this man wanted to do was to help others in need of basic human necessities, and is arrested as a repercussion. Commissioner Dean Trantalis explains “I think that once the full story is out and people see the entire spectrum of services and initiatives in which the city is currently engaged, I think people will have a better understanding of our role in trying to help the homeless in our community.” This statement alone contradicts arresting the people trying to aid the homeless. Although the efforts of the city may help with places such as soup kitchens or shelters, it still does not trump the act of an individual providing his own resources to help out a fellow human being.
Dolan, Eric “90 year old Florida man faces 60 days in jail for feeding the homeless”
Bob Norman, “Fort Lauderdale passes law outlawing many from feeding homeless,” Local10.com, October 31, 2014.
Student Researcher: Alexander Labossiere, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, PhD., Indian River State College
Although the sight of someone begging for money or food may seem like an inconvenience to most people, It is what that individual now needs to do in order to survive. They are not out to hurt or scare anybody, they only wish to live. Everybody is different and although some may claim that homeless people are all drug addicts or alcoholics or the like, that is not always the case. Sometimes people are put in tough situations that are not easy to handle, and without friends or family to support them, there is nowhere to turn but the public. These homeless people now face death without the aid of others.
We as human beings have a moral duty to do what we can to help others. These duties don’t always have to be material things. Sometimes these duties can be as simple as smiling at someone or helping a stranger up if they fall down. This ordinance passed in the city of Fort Lauderdale is infringing on our basic duty to help others. Along with jailing good Samaritans offering assistance, the city is stripping homeless people of their basic human necessity of food. Something so simple could help someone in need get back on his own two feet and help him to contribute to society.
In another local article Micah Harris, co-founder of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Project, is also facing charges now. Micah’s project has helped 36 people get off the street while feeding many more. This shows how local attempts such as the Peanut Butter and Jelly Project as well as Arnold Abbott not only feed the homeless, but also give them an opportunity to be reintegrated into society.
It is very disturbing to read an article of an ordinance that bans a person offering to help. These people are offering assistance out of good will. Nobody is forcing them to do this. As a father I could never imagine telling my child not to share or to not help someone in need. From adolescence we are all taught to give what we can to those in distress. It is inhumane to force somebody not to help a person who needs food. It is one thing to be a bystander in this situation, but to be the one disallowing such an honorable deed is disgraceful.
Instead of banning these acts of kindness, the city should rather build on it. Instead of putting harsh regulations on feeding the homeless, the city should provide numerous locations and allow local volunteers to contribute and help. With help from local citizens as well as the city, at least some of these people can eventually get jobs and a roof over their heads. Helping homeless people back into society will not only benefit the individual but might also bring in more tax dollars to help improve the city. This would be a win-win situation.
The homeless don’t always choose to be in the situation they are in, nor do they enjoy it. They still deserve to be treated as humans just like the rest of us. This ordinance will not help; it will only make matters worse. Innocent people will fill up our jails as well as helpless people dying on our streets from starvation. Putting good people in jail for acts of kindness and unselfishness just doesn’t make sense. This act does not serve the greater good; rather, it does just the opposite.
Rationally, all of us would want to be helped by others if we were down and out. So, we therefore have a duty to help the homeless, just as we would expect others to help us.
Presently, there are plans to protest the ordinance with a hunger strike. Others like Arnold Abbott maintain that they will continue to fight the city over the feeding of the homeless. People like Arnold Abbott and Micah Harris are the real heroes in this fight. Their selflessness and kindness are a true virtue of humanity.