Tag: PTSD

Is Helping the Homeless a Crime?

arnold abbottThe Bible tells us to love thy neighbor. Even if you don’t subscribe to a particular religious belief, most people have a basic need to help others.

Arnold Abbott has spent the last 23 years of his life doing just that. He runs an organization called “Love Thy Neighbor Fund”, which feeds the hungry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The organization was created in the memory of his late wife; he dedicated his life to aiding the homeless upon his retirement from the jewelry business.

Last Wednesday, he was arrested and cited for doing what he and his volunteers had been doing on a regular basis.

Not only was that shocking…what made it worse was that he is 90 years old.

abbott citeedSo, one can imagine the media frenzy, as the police handcuffed this elderly man in his white coat, as well as his volunteers, and cited him for doing good works. The news went viral…even Jon Stewart weighed in on his show.

The Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, Jack Seiler, had stated this was part of the enforcement of a new city ordinance. He further explained this past Sunday on WPLG Channel 10 South Florida’s This Week in South Florida the reasoning behind the ordinance.

Bottom line? Hygiene. The area in which Mr. Abbott conducted the feeding was near the actual beach. Mr. Abbott believes that the homeless has the right to eat their food while enjoying the natural beauty of South Florida’s beaches. Mayor Seiler states that under the ordinance, all feeding of the homeless needs to be done close to restroom facilities (standing or a portable toilets), and with other hygiene restrictions. Mr. Abbott states that he met all of those requirements….but the interesting compromise that came from that on air roundtable interview was that there would be no further issues if he moved his feedings to a local church.

Both gentlemen discussed the effect the feeding of the homeless had on the tourists. Mr. Abbott said that the tourists he encountered would commend him for his actions, and would often offer to assist (a request he quickly grants); Mayor Seiler states that the tourists are horrified and claim they would NOT return to Ft. Lauderdale Beach until this horrible homeless problem is solved.

And now, we have arrived at the true struggle between views on the homeless. “Oh how sad, yes I’ll donate, but don’t come near my car, stay away from me you stinky person, hide the problem from me so I can enjoy my vacation” vs. “There but for the grace of God/luck/a good family go I”.

There are so many misconceptions about the homeless. They did not all get there from alcoholism, drug addiction or some form of laziness/irresponsibility. In this latest economic downturn, it could be as simple as the unemployment benefits ran out and the person had nowhere to go. It could have been a terrible turn of life events, and the person did not have the friends/family support to get back on their feet.

And, on this Veteran’s Day, think about those wounded warriors who came back from war suffering from PTSD, and could not get back on their feet. Some of the homeless are veterans who volunteered, risked their lives for us in various wars, and we have forgotten them – abandoning them to live on the streets.

Yet, we subject those who assist the homeless to possible fines and jail time rather than working with those who have the passion for change to find real solutions.

There’s this lady called Karma. And she does not like to be trifled with.

To learn more about Arnold Abbott and his organization, see Love Thy Neighbor.

M.

Ft. Hood: An Issue of Gun Control or Mental Health?

ft. hood

Please see my take on this tragedy, published on theLaw.tv yesterday.  Ft. Hood

This week, there was another shooting tragedy on the Ft. Hood military base. Ivan Lopez, an Iraq war veteran and Army specialist, shot three people to death, injuring sixteen, before turning the gun on himself. A military policewoman bravely confronted him, which brought his actions to an end.

Unfortunately, Ft. Hood has been struck by tragedy before. In 2009, thirteen people were shot and killed by Nidal Malik Hasan. The difference in the 2009 tragedy is that Hasan had a clear agenda. He had been self-radicalized and took a terrorist stance against the United States. He was given a life sentence for his actions.

In the present shooting, the Army verified that the Lopez was being treated for depression and anxiety, as well as being evaluated for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, Lopez purchased the weapon used in the shooting several days before. He lawfully held a concealed weapons permit.

So the debate re-emerges. Is this another case of a mentally unstable person getting access to weapons? Are our veterans being properly treated for PTSD resulting from combat?

Keep in mind, the majority of people that suffer from PTSD, or any other type of mental illness, are not violent. Some key components of PTSD involve an inability to sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, and difficulty adjusting to civilian life outside of the combat zone. It appears that the Army was in the process of evaluating Lopez, and treating him accordingly. From what is currently known, it seems that the Army was in fact working with Lopez to address his mental health issues. What is not known is Lopez’s motivation for committing this horrible crime. The question will be if there were any warning signs that the shooter’s depression was turning violent and what, if anything, could have been done about it. The answer will hopefully be uncovered in the coming weeks.

The next inevitable issue is that of gun control. Many ask, “how could someone with mental health concerns be able to get a firearm?” This is a situation where the laws that are currently in place adequately addressed what was known at the time of purchase. When the shooter went to the gun shop, he was a current, serving member of the armed forces. He had not been officially declared to be mentally ill; there was no indication that he was suicidal or homicidal. There were no court orders against him, nor was he a convicted felon. If you look at his profile in a general sense, he is someone a gun store owner would have no hesitation in selling a firearm to. As such, he was lawfully able to purchase a firearm.

What is most troubling is that there is a policy at Ft. Hood forbidding firearms on the base. It is clear that this policy has not been enforced on two separate occasions. Unfortunately, Ft. Hood is a huge area, with 90,000 people. It may be physically impossible to search every person. The military is tasked with finding a solution.

At the end of the day, our vets have sacrificed so much, so that we can enjoy the liberties that we have as Americans. The biggest issue should be how can we help them? This is not a case of gun control going awry. It’s a case of human tragedy, with a reminder of how fragile the human mind can be.

This is an issue of caring for our veterans and making sure that those who suffer from mental illness have access to thorough care. And that is where our focus should be.

Melba Pearson is an attorney in Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.