Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old veteran who has been repeatedly arrested for handing out food to the homeless in Ft. Lauderdale, will be able to give them dinner on Christmas Eve.
In October, the city of Ft. Lauderdale passed a new ordinance cracking down on those who give out food to the homeless in public. Abbott, a veteran of World War II who has handed out meals to the homeless every Wednesday for years, was arrested almost immediately after the law went into effect. He has since been cited two more times for continuing to hand out food to the needy.
Earlier this month, Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch ordered a temporary stay of enforcement for the ordinance so the city and homeless advocates could enter mediation. That stay was automatically lifted last week when the city appealed Judge Lynch’s ruling. Under public pressure, though, the city announced on Monday that it would voluntarily suspend enforcement of the ban during the holiday season. It will take effect again on February 5th barring successful mediation or a permanent judicial decision.
The law’s suspension means that Abbott and others will be able to continue distributing food to the needy over the holidays without being arrested. “We’re going to be there Christmas Eve. We’re going to be there New Year’s [Eve]. Nothing is going to stop us,” Abbott told the Sun Sentinel.
Still, he saw little room for compromise with the city when it comes to doing charity work. “They know they’re in the wrong. They know they’re not going to win.”
Ft. Lauderdale has earned a national reputation for its treatment of homeless people this year. In the span of eight months, the city has passed new ordinances making it illegal for homeless people to sleep in public and prohibiting homeless people from having possessions in public on top of the recent crackdown on volunteers handing out food. The city also arrested a homeless man for speaking out during a meeting where the City Commission honored National Homeless Week.