During the summer, every single store in my area has a water filled bowl outside their door. That bowl represents society’s on-going recognition that everyone, including animals, has basic physical needs.
So, recent laws prohibiting the feeding of homeless people seems a tad paradoxical.
Like many people, I feel a sense of discomfort with the homeless. Yet, I am still appalled at the Fort Lauderdale news story of police charging three men with “feeding the homeless in public”, including homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, who has been feeding the homeless there for more than 20 years.
Criminalizing those who feed the homeless reflects, to me, a mostly academic belief that homeless people are better served in facilities that also provide mental health and drug rehabilitation services. Robert Marbut, a consultant who advises cities on homelessness, suggests that “street feeding is one of the worst things you can do, because it keeps people in a homeless status”.
So, Marbut believes that being fed on the street is so pleasurable that people will remain homeless just to experience and enjoy it.
I can only surmise those who feed the homeless will still find a way. Perhaps they will open the doors of their homes. A lineup of hungry homeless in several residential areas would require the homeless to travel to receive basic nourishment. But, at least it will be in a home, not a public place. No ordinance can control how many people a citizen chooses to feed in their own home.
All urban areas struggle with what to do with those who appear to be homeless. Some are homeless due to drugs or mental illness, others, due to financial issues (hopefully temporary), and yes, others are there by choice.
But, it does not matter why a person is homeless and requires food.
How can one justify refusing to provide to humans what would be considered shameless cruelty to animals, if denied to them?
As ninety year old Abbott stated, “One of the police officers said, ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon”.
For their crime, Abbott and his two male helpers face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
A crime of truly heinous dimensions.
Compassionately wielding their ‘weapon’ of choice- a plate filled with food.