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.
So, 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.