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05th Nov 2014

90-Year-Old Man Arrested and Fined for Feeding the Homeless

The man and two local ministers may now face two months in jail and a $500 fine.

Rebecca McKnight

For most, the biggest crime in the case of homelessness is the failure on behalf of governments to provide more help for those who find themselves so vulnerable. 

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, however, being one of the Good Samaritans who step up to help can land you in police custody.

Recent regulations passed in the city have cracked down on the help provided to homeless people by charitable citizens. Ostensibly the rules are to “protect the homeless by directing them to stabler services”, but in reality it has made it near impossible for help to be offered.

According to local reports, the new rules require any group distributing food indoors to stay 500 feet from other sites. Outdoor sites now have to operate 500 feet from any residential business, seek the permission of property owners, and provide portable toilets.

The stringent rules have already forced several charitable groups out of action and the conditions are being heavily enforced, as witnessed by 90-year-old Arnold Abbott on Sunday last.

Speaking to KHON, Abbott said: “One of police officers came over and said, ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I was carrying a weapon.” “It’s man’s inhumanity to man.”

Mr. Abbot runs a nonprofit group called Love Thy Neighbor, Inc.

He and two local ministers have been charged with offences that could result in two months of a jail sentence and a $500 fine.

Now, Arnold says he plans to sue the city. “I’m going to have to go to court again and sue the city of Fort Lauderdale – a beautiful city” he said. “These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don’t have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?”.