This week 90 year old Arnold Abbott was arrested for a second time in a week for feeding the homeless. Feeding the homeless violates a new Ft. Lauderdale, Florida law. If he is found guilty he faces 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. In the first incident of the week police threw out plates of food while homeless people who were waiting in line looking on. The law enacted in January also makes it illegal to pan handle. So to be clear you can’t ask for food and you can’t share food. What the hell are we doing????
Listen, I get it. I go in New York City often and seeing so many homeless begging for food and money and sleeping on the sidewalk is a nuisance. It is not pleasing. In San Francisco the crises is even worse. As much as it displeases those of us with a full belly, some Sheckles in our pocket, and a roof over our head it is a million times worse for the people that are actually homeless. The vast majority of people are prideful. They don’t want to beg. They certainly don’t want to sleep on the streets where they are at the mercy of criminals and the elements. So what is societies answer? Criminalize being homeless and now criminalize acts of compassion.
Many in this country like to call ourselves a Christian nation based on Christian principles. Put whether that is really how we were founded aside for the point of this blog. Americans do like to look at themselves as benevolent. You can’t call yourself Christian or view yourself benevolent if you support criminalizing helping people having a tough time. There are certainly ways we can alleviate our homeless crises in this country but arresting people who give the homeless food and comfort does not seem like the best way to use our resources. Do you really want the police arresting volunteers for feeding the homeless when they could be patrolling the city, answering domestic abuse calls, keeping schools safe, cracking down on human trafficking happening in their city or any other activities we normally associate with good police work? This is not the police’s fault as they are doing their job. However, throwing away food in front of the homeless is not doing their job. They were being dicks. American citizens in an American city voted for people who made it a priority to make a law to criminalize feeding the homeless. We did that. Not Iran. Not Afghanistan. Not Syria. We did that.
Some say we need to get people off the public dole. Let the churches and charities take care of the poor. Put aside whether a wealthy nation should take responsibility for its most destitute citizens for a moment. If we cut resources for the states and federal government to take care of the poor and we make it illegal for citizens and charities to take care of the poor what are we saying? Should we hope the homeless just starve to death and then we can put them in a mass grave and that will be the end of the problem? Do we just want our poorest citizens to disappear because we find them to be inconvenient? If we as a society decide that then at the least lets stop pretending we are based on the teachings of Jesus or some type of righteous and good country. Let’s just own it and say we are Darwinistic and tough titty if you are down on your luck. At least then we know the stakes of the game.
Does a nation that claims its economy is roaring really need to raise more money through fines on the backs of our poorest citizens and those that would help them or is now the time to invest in more homeless shelters, mental health facilities, and job training? Ask yourself, what would Jesus do. My bible does not contain the scripture that says, “and then Jesus looked at the downtrodden and threw their fishes and loaves in the garbage and proclaimed, lock them up, lock them up, lock them up!