Why was a 90-year-old WWII veteran cited for feeding the homeless?
UDPATED at 11:40 a.m. EDT on Nov. 13 | By now, you might have heard about Arnold Abbott — a 90-year-old chef from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who set the public ablaze last week when he was issued two citations for feeding the homeless.
On Wednesday night, Abbott received his third citation when he was asked to “cease and desist” from serving meals to roughly 75 homeless people.
The World War II veteran and longtime advocate for the homeless now faces 60 days of jail time and a $500 fine, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to defy the law that got him in trouble in the first place.
The city passed a measure on Oct. 22 that restricts people from feeding their homeless neighbors. In Fort Lauderdale, the legislation will require feeding sites to sit 500 feet away from each other, and from residential properties. Additionally, only one feeding site per city block will be permitted.
In 1999, Abbott sued the city of Fort Lauderdale to win the right to feed the homeless on a public beach. For 15 years, he’s done just that every Wednesday.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler offered to provide Abbott with two indoor locations to move his feeding site to, but he refused, calling the proposal “a stopgap temporary measure.”
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, this type of legislation has been passed in 21 cities since January 2013. But Abbott’s citations have brought about national outcry and questioning of the ethics behind such laws.
Seiler told the Sun Sentinel that “the media’s ignoring the fact that there are daily feedings taking place in the city of Fort Lauderdale in full compliance with the law.”
Seiler insists that the law is meant to act as a structured rule for feeding the homeless.
That hasn’t stopped a slew of civil disobedience acts from occurring around the city. As recently as Monday, homeless advocates set up a feeding station outside of city hall.
Furthermore, it has not deterred Abbott from carrying on with his mission.
“We will continue as long as there is breath in my body,” he told the Sun Sentinel on Sunday.