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South Florida organizations work together to create Homeless Bill of Rights

Organizers say bill has begun to get support from legislators

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – South Florida organizations are trying to help the homeless by enacting a bill of rights for those who don't have a home in Fort Lauderdale.

The purpose of the Homeless Bill of Rights, according to the groups pushing for it, is to ensure that people who don't have a place to live get the same rights as people who do have a place to call home.

According to a count done in 2014, there are more than 2,700 homeless people in Broward County, including more than 1,200 in Fort Lauderdale alone.

Love Thy Neighbor Fund director Arnold Abbott, 92, has made it his mission to feed the homeless throughout the county.

"The problem of homelessness will not go away, and many people think Jesus will come back as a homeless man, so you better be good to homeless people," Abbott said.

Police issued citations to Abbott on two occasions because of Fort Lauderdale's feeding ban on the homeless, and other activists said the ban and others like it are infringing on the rights of South Florida's homeless.

"To provide long-term protection to the basic human rights and dignity for all homeless people in Florida, and any real home, that one day we will also be able to end homelessness here, a Homeless Bill of Rights is vital," Benjamin Waxman with the Miami American Civil Liberties Union said.

The Florida Homelessness Action Coalition, along with other groups advocating for the homeless, joined together to create the Bill of Rights.

"The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to nip in the bud all of the laws which criminalize homelessness," Jeff Weinberger from the coalition said.

Those rights include sleeping and storing food in public and, most important to Abbott, food sharing.

"The day is coming when we can all live in peace and in brotherhood, and that's what I live for, and as long there's breath in my body I will fight to see that that happens," Abbott said.

The bill is still in the draft stage, but organizers said they are starting to gather support from legislators.


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