For decades, 90-year-old Arnold Abbott has hauled pans filled with roast chicken and cheese-covered potatoes onto a south Florida beach park to feed hundreds of homeless people.
For his good deeds, Abbott finds himself facing up to two months in jail and hundreds of dollars in fines after new laws that restrict public feeding of the homeless went into effect in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year.
“I’ve been fighting for the underdog all my life, so this is nothing new,” Abbott said.
He was first cited last Sunday, along with two clergymen and a volunteer from his nonprofit, Love Thy Neighbor.
On Wednesday, several police cars waited for Abbott at a downtown Fort Lauderdale park, and officers pulled aside the frail man, clad in a white chef’s coat, soon after the first plates were ready to be served.
“The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor John P. Seiler said in a statement.
His crime? No porta potty available for use.
Abbott moved to Florida from Massachusetts in 1970 and was a civil rights activist and wholesale jewelry salesman. He and his wife first began feeding the homeless on their own in 1979. He started the foundation and feeding full time in 1991 after his wife died, in a tribute to her memory.
That is some tribute. She must have loved him very much.
The dispute highlights a debate between two schools of homeless rights activists: Those who argue that banning public feeding criminalizes the homeless, and others who say feeding and panhandling helps keep them on the street.
I was raised to offer a helping hand and never turn anyone’s request for food down. Money, I have never had, but food I have always been blessed with a full table. I am humbled by all of the blessings that I have had bestowed on me throughout my life. If I am not delivering homemade food to some of my elderly friends, I am cooking for the dogs and cats (many are old and no longer have teeth). I suppose that is why I still have a 23 year old Maltese that barks and has more good days than bad ones. LOL
I know that for many the panhandlers, strays, ferals, whatever you want to call them they are eyesores. To me, it is another life that is no greater and no less than I. i hope that I will never become so cynical that I would turn away someone in need. I say this because I have an elderly friend who hoards food because she worries about that day when there will be no one to ask for help. This saddens me greatly. As a society, we cannot forget that we are one and the same with some of us a bit more fortunate than others.
Last month there were two important dates that I accidentally overlooked. One was National Cat Day, and the other was National Feral Cat Day. They say that feeding ferals does exactly what the ordinance about is trying to stop. It keeps them on the street. True, however if they are neutered and returned to the area where they were trapped they actually keep the population down. Yes, they poop and pee all over our gardens. There are deterrents which do not harm them that can be made at home for pennies. Interesting that Moo and Boo would not take up those days. Oh, it’s just me…I can’t stand either one of them and I had to add that.
I also know that there are many who lie to get whatever they need at the expense of others. That is wrong, and eventually there will be a karmic payback on that. I’ve had my fair share of disappointment when it comes to liars. Anyhow, I always think of November as that time when the cold wind blows. Shelter comes first, and food comes next. I know that those of you who come to the blog are the people who help to sustain the souls of those human or animal critters who have nothing whether it is food, shelter or guidance. May you always be blessed.