Poor in Paradise

IMAGE SOURCE: NBC NEWS

IMAGE SOURCE: NBC NEWS screenshot

By Anita Stewart

Ft. Lauderdale is looking really bad lately on an international scale with the issues surrounding the Homeless and Hungry in this city. The Mayor and the City Council members and the shadowy Downtown Development Authority (an unelected and monied corporate council of sorts) have implemented a collective effort to silence the Homeless and make them disappear. The Mayor even started a program giving the Homeless bus tickets out of town to get them to their friends and family members and insultingly called it a “Family Reunification Program.” 

The Mayor, Jack Seiler has some pre-defined responses to inquiries that ended up being lies and included the following,“

The City Commission did not realize that requiring the homeless be fed in safe, secure, sanitary and healthy conditions would be distorted by the media as an attack on the homeless. The City Commission did not ban feeding the homeless in the City of Fort Lauderdale and did not make it illegal to feed the homeless; the City Commission only regulated the location of those feedings. In fact, there are numerous locations where homeless feedings may be legally held in the City, including our downtown. You can read the ordinance online at our website: FortLauderdale.gov.

Further, the cycle of homeless and homelessness on the streets of Fort Lauderdale is unacceptable, and this City Commission will do everything possible to get them off the streets and into the right programs, to the appropriate facilities, and to the proper resources necessary to turn their lives around.

This City Commission also does substantial charitable work for the homeless here in South Florida, volunteer at the local homeless assistance center, contribute financially to assist homeless programs and benefits, and work on several successful homeless veterans programs and projects. You can find many of those programs listed on our website at FortLauderdale.gov.”

Mayor Seiler speaks of multiple programs to aid the Homeless and Hungry in his communiques but according to those on the streets, the only one that exists is run by the county and is woefully inadequate for the sheer numbers of the people in need.

Radical actions over the past few weeks have included the arrest of a homeless man, Ray Cox in the City Council meeting on November 18, 2014  while at the same time the Council claimed November 16-22, 2014 as “National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.”

Yesterday, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis urged other city officials to end the controversial law. So far he was the lone voice in favor of rescinding the ordinance. Local Channel 10 also reported that Ft. Lauderdale’s lists of feedings and aid for the Homeless did not yet exist. 

The arrests continue of those from Food Not Bombs, Love Thy Neighbor and other groups, charities and individuals who are publicly feeding the Homeless and Hungry. Mr. Abbott, the 90 year old who runs Love Thy Neighbor has been arrested multiple times. He has been feeding the homeless for over 20 years. This does not sound like an atmosphere of love and compassion and true caring by the city.

As of this writing, Jillian Pim of Food Not Bombs is on Day 17 of her Hunger Strike in solidarity with the Homeless and Hungry. She plans on continuing until the ordinance is rescinded or no longer enforced by the city. And Ft. Lauderdale may lose a lot of downtown revenue as Christmas has been cancelled by those feeding the Homeless and Hungry.  

Aaron Jackson, a CNN Hero who has also been arrested is currently crowdfunding a food truck so he can feed the Homeless and Hungry outside of City Hall. 

At the same time as this is occurring in Ft. Lauderdale and throughout Florida and indeed, across the country in many cities, an alarming study by the United Way gives us a number to go on: 45% of Florida households can’t afford to live within the average cost of living here. And what is especially significant is the amount of people that are working and still cannot afford even the basics for their households. Between 2007 and 2012 the cost of basic housing, child care, transportation, food and health care in Florida increased by 13 percent. The United Way report analyzed this report with each county using the following criteria: affordable living, jobs and community support.

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