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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 635: Feeding the Homeless is Illegal

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/04/justice/florida-feeding-homeless-charges/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

(CNN) -- Arnold Abbott handed out four plates of food to homeless people in a South Florida park. Then police stopped the 90-year-old from serving up another bite.
"An officer said, 'Drop that plate right now -- like I had a weapon,'" Abbott said.
Abbott and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were charged for feeding the homeless in public on Sunday, the city's first crackdowns under a new ordinance banning public food sharing, CNN affiliate WPLG reported.
Now they face possible jail time and a $500 fine, WPLG said.
Despite some criticism from homeless advocates, city officials have vowed the new rules will be enforced.
"Just because of media attention we don't stop enforcing the law. We enforce the laws here in Fort Lauderdale," Mayor Jack Seiler told WPLG.
He defended the law in an interview with the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
"I'm not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in the city of Fort Lauderdale," Seiler said. "Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive."
But Abbott, who has been helping feed homeless people in the area through his Love Thy Neighbor nonprofit since 1991, said authorities are targeting the city's most vulnerable residents.
"These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. They don't have a roof over their head," he said. "Who can turn them away?"
Recently, the city has also passed an ordinance limiting the storage of personal property in public, WPLG said. Then came the restrictions for food sharing.
"The city passed an ordinance requiring us to have a Porta-Potty. It's ridiculous. The whole thing was designed to rid Fort Lauderdale of its homeless," Abbott said. "Police told me anyone who touches a pan ... anyone who is involved, will be arrested."

Somehow this is being justified. Somehow people believe that doing this is good and right. You have to look at life in a very narrow light to be able to stand by this kind of opinion - meaning that you do not consider other people the same way in which you would consider yourself if it was you in their position.

When you're looking at the world in only a certain light you're going to miss out on all the different views and perspectives that would otherwise give you a comprehensive point of view. In the story above, people are wanting to drive out homeless people because they are a 'nuisance' and are not 'aesthetically pleasing' to the eye. The logic is that if you stop allowing people to support the homeless with food and prevent the homeless from building their homes on the streets that they will go away - as if that actually solves the problem. Obviously the reasoning is counter intuitive and actually just heightens the problem for those people who are homeless.

Now I 'm not saying that all homeless people are saints and that they had no hand in where they ended up - in fact I'd like to stay away from generalizations as much as possible and use them only when necessary. How someone got to where they are is not the issue - what is the issue is that there is no support structure in our society to support those who have gone through difficult times - whatever they may have been.

Now things are changing - the scale of the change is as yet undetermined - but the fact that the behaviour described in the story above is allowed at all is a daunting one. It is becoming more socially accepted in some areas to deliberately ignore and even quash the rights of those people who are less privileged - thereby setting the mandate that money determines not only the nature and quality of your life, but also your position and value in society.

This stems from the unwillingness to regard another person who falls under a particular category in your mind as equal to you - it is a form of discrimination that can eventually evolve to the extent that the discrimination against the jews went in WW2. All of this comes from ideas and beliefs that you allow within yourself, that you allow to dictate your actions and words. The solution, of course, is to let go and embrace a flexibility within your life and yourself where you are willing to investigate all things and do not simply cling to what you know.

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