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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – At St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale more than 100 homeless men and women joined for a meal Monday night. Much of the talk was on the city’s new law restricting outdoor feedings and moving the feedings indoors to a house of worship with running water…bathrooms and other amenities.
Matthew Black, whose been homeless for two years, was happy to receive a meal but is not a fan of the new law.
“You’re putting people, homeless people especially, in a position where they cannot get food as readily available to them as they once were able to,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
Critics — like Pastor Frank Pontillo — say the new law not only restricts the compassionate act of feeding someone in need but was not well thought out.
“I think it was done prematurely,” he said. “They didn’t have a plan in place to accommodate the abruptness of people not having food.”
Specifically Pontillo said — there are only four nights a week where the homeless can get food at a house of worship. That leaves 3 other nights where outdoor feedings used to fill in the gap, like feedings done by 90 year old Arnold Abbott — whose been cited for violating the city’s law.
Robin Martin is the executive director of HOPE South Florida which is partnering with the city to put on the feedings. Martin admits they need more churches to step forward to host feedings but he believes that is the safest, cleanest and most secure place for the homeless to get a meal.
“I hope because the eye is on this issue in Fort Lauderdale that the hands will open up and begin to truly serve and care for this really desperate community,” Martin said.
Earlier Monday the Homeless Voice was cited by the city for handing out pizza outside city hall without a permit.
“We’re not gonna take the food,” a Fort Lauderdale Police Officer told the group. “We’re not gonna take anybody to jail.”
Aaron Jackson received a citation and said he returned to South Florida specifically to show his support for the homeless.
“We deal with people with Schizophrenia, many mental health that don’t want to come inside,” he said. “They’re scared to. So whose going to deal with those people? Why are they going to be disenfranchised?”
Mayor Jack Seiler said he hopes the homeless advocates and activists can join with the community to help create a comprehensive plan to combat homelessness in the city.
“The more productive use of all our time and the more productive use of all our efforts should be addressed to the homeless,” Seiler said. “Helping the homeless. Assisting the homeless. Feeding the homeless. That’s where we ought to focus our efforts.”
The Homeless Voice and Arnold Abbott have said they will continue to feed the homeless outdoors in defiance of the city’s law. The mayor says the city will continue to enforce the law.
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