Cities across America – from Pensacola, Florida to Honolulu, Hawaii — have increasingly taken strong measures to discourage the homeless from making a home within their city limits. So it didn’t seem surprising when the media ran with a story last week about two pastors and a 90-year-old homeless advocate “Charged With Feeding Homeless.” As the AP reported,
To Arnold Abbott, feeding the homeless in a public park in South Florida was an act of charity. To the city of Fort Lauderdale, the 90-year-old man in white chef’s apron serving up gourmet-styled meals was committing a crime.
For more than two decades, the man many call “Chef Arnold” has proudly fired up his ovens to serve up four-course meals for the downtrodden who wander the palm tree-lined beaches and parks of this sunny tourist destination.
Now a face-off over a new ordinance restricting public feedings of the homeless has pitted Abbott and others with compassionate aims against some officials, residents and businesses who say the growing homeless population has overrun local parks and that public spaces merit greater oversight.
The story certainly sounds like an outrageous restriction on charity. But did the media get the story right?