Sunday, January 3, 2016

Homeless Fenced Off for 2016

What follows is a survey of some of the commonly used spaces by homeless people downtown. For a long time, the area in the vicinity of Fort Lauderdale City Hall and Broward Central Terminal were occupied by dozens of homeless people, who have very few places to spend their days and even fewer to spend their nights; for many, the parking lots and sidewalks North of Broward Boulevard are all they have.

With the development of "All Aboard Florida" just getting started, virtually every space the homeless people inhabited that was not a piece of sidewalk North of Broward has been roped off in the last few months.

The overhang entrance of the disused building on the NW corner of Andrews & NE 1st Street, directly across the street from City Hall.

A few months ago this empty, disused parking lot on the SW corner of Andrews & NE 1st Street was re-paved, re-planted, and eventually, fenced off. 

The block between City Hall & Broward Central Terminal is mostly parking lot and the old building pictured earlier. Prior to a year or two ago, they were disused and one of the larger spaces homeless people occupied in the area. Fences have gradually chipped away at public access until finally in the last month or so there is nothing left. This was the last space left at NE 1st & Brickell Ave and it now carries a trendy new logo for the upcoming development effort.

On the NE corner of the same block, at NE 2nd St & Andrews Ave, this public parking space has been removed entirely to discourage the homeless people who have slept here over the years. The parking meters have been removed and a fence encloses the lot.
Immediately North is the former "One Stop Shop." The City owns the whole property and claims they are in the process of selling it for redevelopment. Some people want it turned into a new park. It is perhaps one of the only spaces frequented by homeless people in the immediate downtown area that hasn't been fully fenced off.

 On the NW side of the One Stop Shop is "The Tree." Although it hasn't been fenced off, homeless outreach services provided in coordination with the City of Fort Lauderdale at this location were cut over the summer and only a few homeless people spend much time here anymore. So to re-state this, the City demanded that homeless services stop over 6 months ago and absolutely nothing has changed here whatsoever.

This leads us back to the area of Stranahan Park. The Main Library is now a very rare thing in downtown; a public space, that is not a sidewalk, that homeless people are allowed access to during the day. Frequent police patrols targeting the homeless do not make this very friendly. Riverwalk is also accessible, yet there is also private security watching over people in that space as well.
On an average day, only a handful of homeless people (or absolutely anyone, really) can be seen using Stranahan Park. It remains a ghost park most of the year.

In many times over the last few years, the amount of people who spend the day on the sidewalk in front of Stranahan Park has been low. Since the fences went up North of Broward, the amout of people here on the daily has increased a bit. There are now a couple dozen people there every day.

During this time no other spaces have been created as an alternative for the chronically homeless, and the people leaving jail in downtown who have no place to go.

Although the County has increased its attempts to house veterans and the very ill in downtown, there are no proposals at the County or City level to deal with the fact that most homeless now only have sidewalks to sit on all day.   

This trend is only likely to continue with the development of the train station, the designed purpose of which is to turn Fort Lauderdale's skid row into a gentrified cityscape for Broward's upper class.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Support All Saints' Soup Kitchen

For years, All Saints Catholic Mission has been resisting efforts to have its food sharing criminalized by the City of Oakland Park. Last year, the City finally voted to have All Saints shut down, citing complaints by neighboring businesses and residences. The new rule adopted in 2014 banned "parishes" in this part of Oakland Park; a restriction that is solely directed at All Saints and its daily meals to the needy.

Since receiving a cease and desist order last Tuesday, the Mission has presumably been racking up thousands in citations for refusing it, this act has also prompted the parish to take new steps to demand that the City of Oakland Park stop targeting them and the people who rely on them. 

Father Bob will be leading a prayer vigil at the Mayor of Oakland Park's home this Tuesday evening, November 8th. If anyone wishes to attend they are being asked to meet at the mission at 3460 Powerline Road by 5:30 pm. According to the Mission their intent is to protest a different Oakland Park city official every week until their food sharings are decriminalized.

The policies of the City of Oakland Park, and the efforts to resist it by All Saints, is a story all too familiar for those that have resisted Fort Lauderdale's homeless hate law this past year. We hope to see many of our favorite food sharing rebels Tuesday and in the weeks ahead in the effort to keep the food flowing to the needy in Oakland Park. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Banniversary

At the end of October, Food Not Bombs will be leading a "week of action" similiar in style to what took place last year when the sharing ban finally became law.

The Banniversary will celebrate 1 year of continued outdoor food sharings with the needy in resistance to Fort Lauderdale's homeless hate laws. Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs will be hosting some kind of activity all week long!

Friday, October 30th, 5 pm: Banniversary Kick-Off at Food Not Bombs
After years of trying, the City finally came close to shutting down outdoor food sharings like Food Not Bombs 1 year ago. Join FNB's weekly vegetarian potluck in Stranahan Park, because it's not going anywhere!

Saturday, October 31st, 3pm: Banniversary Halloween Fun Day 
Banniversary week is not all protests and potlucks...come by for some fun & games in Stranahan Park. Wear a costume!

Sunday, November 1st, 4 pm: Resist Homeless Hate Laws Rally
FNB remembers the 7 weeks of continuous protest and media commotion last year all too well! Let's revisit  the spirt of #resisthomelesshatelaws circa November 2014 with a protest along US 1. 

Monday, November 2nd, 12:30 pm: Banniversary Sharing
Join Chef Arnold & some of the other rebel food sharers of Broward County for a sharing outside Stranahan Park. We'll be marking the occasion of the sharing heard 'round the world, 1 year ago on this day.

Tuesday, November 3rd, 6 pm: Sharing Ban Comedy Roast
"Food Not Bombs invites you to a comedic roast of the infamous sharing ban of Fort Lauderdale during Banniversary week. While several FNB'ers are already scheduled, we invite everyone to sign up and make tributes of their own to the laws that turned Ft Lauderdale into an international laughingstock."

Wednesday, November 4th: Sistrunk Sharing
FNB and other community activists will be doing a sharing at Lincoln Park on Sistrunk Blvd. More information TBA.

Thursday, November 5th TBA

Friday, November 6th, 7 pm: Banniversary Street Prom
The finale for Banniversary week will be a musical street march through downtown Ft Lauderdale following the weekly sharing at Stranahan Park.

"We're not just resisting homeless hate laws - we're sharing our vision of a future liberated from oppression based in gender, race and class, and the contraints of government and society with each other and the people of Fort Lauderdale."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Will The US Gov't End Homeless Hate Laws?

Recently, the Federal Department of Justice announced that criminalizing homelessness is unconstitutional. While the news lacked any real teeth, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) may have significantly changed that situation.

Now in a bold and seriously under-reported move, HUD has announced that counties and cities across America will be required to describe how they are reducing criminalization of homelessness when they re-apply for annual funding from the Federal Government. Future funding levels for at least some grants may be partially determined by how the applicant answers this question.

Broward County receives millions every year in HUD grants. And yet, the City of Fort Lauderdale has perhaps more anti-homeless laws on record than any City
in America. They are also spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting lawsuits filed against them for the  outdoor food sharing ban. Theoretically this could effect many major cities just in this one state, such as Miami, Tampa, St Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola, and many others that have recently endorsed or passed laws criminalizing homeless activities or targeted homeless aid operations with arrest and raids.

Could the threat of a HUD-led boycott of Fort Lauderdale finally convince Mayor Seiler and company to change course?

If so, it will hopefully happen soon. Intercession Food Pantry closed its doors this week, making it at least the third homeless service provider shut down this year by government hands. All Saint's Mission in Oakland is also listed for shutdown but still has 3 years to attempt to relocate.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Florida Cities Attack Those That Help The Homeless

On Wednesday, a Tampa non-profit shelter service, "Homeless Helping Homeless Inc," was raided by Tampa police officers. The search warrant was ostensibly related to a tow company that police claim is run by the nonprofit's owner, but HHH's computers and documents were seized and by Thursday the building was effectively condemned, giving the residents just a few days to take their belongings and go.

"This investigation has nothing to do with the homeless shelter. It's irrelevant," said TPD spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

HHH grabbed a lot of attention for successfully suing the City of Tampa for a panhandling ban that threatened their newspaper operation, which is passingly similar to what The Homeless Voice used to do here. Their federal lawsuit against the City resulted in the law being partially repealed in July.

HHH's friends in the proactive homeless support community in Tampa have set up a crowd-funding page to try to collect enough money to repair the code violations before the building is taken away and demolished.

Stock in the unpopularity of allowing homeless people to actually live indoors in major cities across South Florida seems to be high. Not long after the prior news from Tampa emerged, the Sun Sentinel posted an incredibly bizarre story where-in Sean Cononie makes some vague statements about re-opening the Homeless Voice somewhere in Broward County.

The Homeless Voice has frequently been a negative attention magnet for various government bureaucrats. What's really remarkable here is the amount of locals and public officials lining up to declare just how unwelcome Broward County feels towards homeless people.

Dania Mayor Salvino
Most remarkable are the comments from Dania Beach City officials:

Dania Beach Mayor Marco Salvino seemed caught off-guard.
"I don't know anyone who would want him back here," Salvino said.
He plans to ask the city attorney to research whether Dania Beach can pass an outright ban on homeless shelters.
"I don't know that that's the image we're trying to project for our city," Dania Beach Commissioner Chickie Brandimarte said. 
 Broward homeless census-takers generally do not collect data specifically on the homeless population in Dania. Although the County Jail and other centralized resources in nearby downtown Fort Lauderdale continue to concentrate the homeless there, it can't be denied that Dania has its own homeless population. Downtown Dania itself continues to idle in decay while similar areas such as Sistrunk, downtown Pompano, downtown Hollywood, etc., have poured 10 of millions of dollars into redeveloping their urban areas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rick Scott Slashes $2m in Homeless Assistance

Ripples of outrage have been spreading all week since the approval of the latest Florida state budget. Mixed into the piles of public services gutted from next years budget were millions allocated to government sponsored local homelessness initiatives.

Here in Fort Lauderdale, $800,000 ii funding for the Rapid Re-Housing program was vetoed. Much like the infamous budget cuts that killed the Sunrail, Rick Scott's veto pen is actually stopping the flow of federal dollars, in this case from HUD, from helping the general public and the very needy statewide. 

Rapid Re-Housing has been the City of Fort Lauderdale's lynchpin plan for reducing homelessness in downtown; throughout the last several years of controversy around Fort Lauderdale's homeless policies, City officials have always pointed to Housing First & Rapid Re-Housing as proof of the good intent. At this time it is unclear if and how the City will be able to keep the program funded for the next year. 

As this blog is getting fairly tired of reporting, this budget cut is part of ongoing hot streak of homeless service cuts effecting downtown Ft Lauderdale, including but limited to, the sharing ban, the closure of the Homeless Voice, and the shutdown of homeless outreach services at "The Tree."

Here's a full list of homeless services cut by Rick Scott this week, some of which has already been stirring up controversy:

Citrus Health Network for the Safe Haven for Homeless Youth Program - $100,00
Miami-Dade Homeless Trust - $189,794
Eckerd and Brevard C.A.R.E.S (homelessness intervention and prevention services) $500,000
Jacksonville SOAR Outreach Program (chronically homeless persons) $97,000
Metropolitan Ministries-Pasco Transitional Housing $1,000,000
City of Ft. Lauderdale Rapid Rehousing Project $800,000
Clearwater Homeless Emergency Project  $400,000

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tree Closing is Yet Another City Hate Law

As of today, "The Tree," the informal meeting place for homeless people to get in touch with County homeless services, is off the limits. The City wants to open the land on NW 2nd in between Andrews & 1st ave up for bidding for destruction and development. However, it also conveniently fits into the City's overall effort to ban and displace homeless people and their homeless services from downtown Ft Lauderdale, particularly north of Broward Blvd in the area of the bus terminal.

The shutdown of the Tree is the latest in a countless string of closures of homeless services in the last few years, from the buy-out of the Homeless Voice to last fall's notorious attempts to shut down all outdoor food sharing organizations downtown. Despite the fact that one of the county's main outreach efforts as part of its Homeless Initiative operates at this location, many of these services will be cut without a replacement location being provided.

Homeless advocates and others who have experienced the services provided at the tree will be gathering on Monday, June 1st, to mark this somber occasion and discuss the urgent demand for more inclusive spaces for the needy in downtown instead of more displacement tactics and bad City policy.