Fort Lauderdale, FL- On Tuesday Broward County Judge Thomas Lynch issued a 30-day suspension of arresting individuals who violate a city ordinance regarding feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale.
Lynch ordered that police halt the arrests and citations of people violating the city’s controversial ordinance that heavily regulates people and groups who wish to give food to the homeless. The ordinance went into effect October 31st and does not fully ban feeding the homeless but enforces several restrictions, including a mandate that forces feeding sites to remain at least 500 feet from each other, a mandate requiring that sites must be at least 500 feet from residences, and a mandate requiring a portable toilet to be provided at feeding sites.
The ordinance gained national attention after Arnold Abbot, a World War II veteran and founder of volunteer organization Love Thy Neighbor, was arrested along with two pastors for providing meals for the homeless without equipping the site with a mandated portable toilet. “I have tried to abide by their regulations, but we just are not able to provide a port-a-potty,” Abbot had said.
Abbot has been feeding homeless people for years, and in 1999 won a lawsuit against the city after he was ordered to cease feeding the homeless at Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Lynch instructed that all sides involved in Abbot’s case enter into mediation during the temporary suspension of arrests. “We’ve been trying to find some amicable resolution,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Mayor Jack Seiler. “We hope that Mr. Abbott meets us half way. We’ve asked him to meet us half way in the past.”
“We would prefer to enforce our municipal ordinances,” Seiler added. “But whether the judge was trying to take a little steam off the kettle, whether the judge was trying to give a little period of quiet during the holidays, I’m not sure what was the logic behind his decision.”