90-year-old man charged for feeding homeless cited again

Arnold Abbott cited for second time

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter , Terrell Forney - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Local 10 first brought you the story of the 90-year-old man who was arrested for illegally feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale. Wednesday he was back to continue his cause.

VOTE: Do you agree with the Broward homeless feeding ordinance?

"We've heard from every continent," said Arnold Abbott. "The last I heard was from Kenya and Moscow."

Abbott has heard from hundreds of people all around the world since he and two pastors were charged Sunday with feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale.

"I've heard from South America, any number of people from Canada, three newspapers from the United Kingdom," Abbot said.

He was the first charged with the new ordinance that makes it a crime punishable by up to 60 days in jail to feed the homeless in public. The story first aired Local 10 has gone viral.

"I am both enthused and humbled," Abbot said. "The good news is that there is pressure being put on the city of Fort Lauderdale to do something about a law that is not only unfair, it's repressive."

Mayor Jack Seiler, who supports the ordinance, said he's gotten massive feedback as well, though not always so positive. But he said the law is meant to help the homeless, not to keep them from eating.

"Mr. Abbott has decided that he doesn't think these individuals should have to have any interaction with government, that they should be fed in the parks. We disagree," Seiler said.

But Abbott said there aren't adequate government services or food to deal with the homeless.

"What the city is doing by cutting out feeding is very simple -- they are forcing homeless people to go dumpster-diving all over again," Abbott said. "They will steal. That's what the mayor is forcing the homeless to do."

And while Abbott said he wants to compromise with the city, he expects to be charged again.

"I love the city. I live here, it's a beautiful place and I'd like to keep it beautiful, but you cannot sweep the homeless under a rug," he said. "There is no rug large enough for that."

Abbott and his team of chefs set up shop Wednesday night on Fort Lauderdale Beach and dished out free food to the homeless. Uniformed police were also there recording.

"They didn't have the gumption to move in on us. They were afraid, afraid of public opinion," said Abbott.

But Abbott was ultimately confronted by cops in the middle of an interview with Local 10 News. The elderly chef with a big heart was escorted away in front of a large crowd of his supporters. Instead of whisking the 90-year old to jail, police decided to just fingerprint Abbott and issue him a citation on the spot.

"It's a pubic safety issue. It's a public health issue," said Seiler. "The experts have all said that if you're going to feed them to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you're doing is enabling that cycle of homelessness. They don't interact with anyone, they don't receive the aid that they need."

"It's our right to feed people, it's our First Amendment right and I believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and we should be allowed to feed our fellow man," Abbott said.

Abbott was asked if he would come back to the beach.

"You bet your life," Abbott replied. "I'll fight for the beach as long as there's birth in my body."

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