Arnold Abbott, who heads the group Love Thy Neighbor, said he had served only three or four of about 300 meals he had prepared when police ordered him to stop.
Abbott, the Rev. Mark Sims, of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, and the Rev. Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, were each cited for willfully violating a city ordinance. Police issued them notices to appear in court, where they could be asked to explain their actions.
The ordinance, approved by the city commission Oct. 22, is one of several recent efforts by officials to crack down on the city’s burgeoning downtown homeless population.
The latest law, which took effect Friday, limits where outdoor feeding sites can be located, requires the permission of property owners and says the groups have to provide portable toilets.
Abbott, who has won past legal battles with the city over feeding restrictions, has vowed to go to court again.
“We are simply trying to feed people who are hungry,” said Sims. “To criminalize that is contrary to everything that I stand for as a priest and as a person of faith.”
Mayor Jack Seiler defended the law and its intent.
“I’m not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in city of Fort Lauderdale,” said Seiler. “Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive.”
One alternative, he said, was the homeless assistance center run by the Broward Partnership.
Black said he understood that large groups of homeless persons are considered undesirable by city officials, downtown residents and business owners. “But let’s just feed them,” said Black, “and then deal with other issues.”
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