Arnold Abbott: the Police and the Politics of public feeding.
Picture source: Unknown
At first glance this story appears to be just another case of politics bullying charity, but not so fast.
This story should have been written a few days ago, but it was not to be, as I was once again up in Gainesville getting my melanomas tended to.
Now it’s back to work this morning…
If you have not heard of this man yet, you will.
His name is Arnold Abbott and he is a 90-year-old advocate for the homeless and hungry in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Arnold has for many years been feeding the homeless on the beach at Ft Lauderdale.
There are many who support him in his charitable endeavors, but as usual, there are also those who are very much opposed.
There are kind generous souls in many places around Florida and the Country, who also do this, some make the news, others do not.
When too many complain, laws get passed and ordinances are put into place, to shut those who feed in public down, not just here, but all over the country.
In the past ten years, the warmer states in America have been inundated with the poor and hungry.
And, as the economy went South, so did the homeless.
When providing food to those with none, there is always a risk of offending those who find it unpleasant, even dangerous to themselves, their families, or their businesses.
In the past in some places throughout the state, there have been reports, or incidents of public displays of indecency, or eliminating in public.
There have also been some petty crimes associated with these public feedings.
The list is long for each side.
The point is, there are simply not enough places to provide either shelter, or food for the current abundance of homeless here in Florida, which now ranks third in America, for numbers of homeless, after New York and California.
The desperate come from all over the country to find relief here, knowing that for one, they will not freeze to death while being homeless and that there are more than just a few places to go to find protection from the situation they find themselves in.
When the two sides collide, as they are doing right now in Fort Lauderdale, is when the public out cries begin and many outsiders, along with the press, get involved.
Many people want the hungry to be fed inside, not out in the public view.
Does it make them uncomfortable in this tourist rich state to see the plight of those with nothing?
Florida depends heavily on the lavish spending of rich visitors and if they are appalled or turned off by the sight of the poor and hungry being fed, it may hurt this state’s bottom line.
What is that old saying about “walking a mile in my shoes?”
It only takes ONE big negative life impact to make any one of us homeless and hungry.
Which brings us to the story of Arnold Abbott and his mission in life and to honor his wife, of feeding the homeless and hungry of Fort Lauderdale.
He also works with and teaches the homeless and tries to help find them work.
Much to the great chagrin of city leaders and some businesses, this stubborn World War II Veteran is not going to back down.
As he said today, ” I have fought in the wars, and I know how to do this, I will not stop…..as long as there is breath in my body”
Arnold and his helpers, have been arrested, cited and fined for “illegal actions on behalf of the hungry in Fort Lauderdale.
The Mayor of the city, Jack Seler, is in a tough place.
He must uphold the laws, to avoid an outbreak of charity feedings citywide, but he also does not like all of the really negative publicity the city is getting.
Being the focus of this heavy heat and intense scrutiny is not new for Arnold, who has fought against the city for more than twenty years to do what he considers God’s work.
Can anyone of us know with any real certainty, that there but for the Grace of God go we?
We must ask ourselves: Is Helping The Hungry And Homeless A Crime?
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