Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Homeless Confiscations - A For-Profit Enterprise



Notices and sticker tags went up on homeless property around the Stranahan Park area once again yesterday, November 29th. The notices say that the City will once again be cleaning the area tomorrow, December 1st, and anything left at 8 am that morning will be removed.

Fort Lauderdale's Storage Ban was passed in 2014 and has been used very infrequently the past few months. In fact, one of the most consistent uses of enforcement so far has been when the Women's Club of Fort Lauderdale has a wedding coming up. That's been true in prior enforcements, and it is also true this week, as there is a wedding scheduled for 4:30 this Friday inside Stranahan Park.

Matters of improper policing and class are often brought up in regards to issues surrounding Stranahan Park. The storage ban may be the clearest lesson yet - a law that is ONLY enforced when wealthy, influential people are intending to profit off of a public space,  and need the area cleared out ahead of time.

This issue has dragged on for years, and it has only gotten more ridiculous. One of our most in depth pieces on Stranahan was actually written due to the incessant rumors, spread by FLPD and Women's Club volunteers, that Stranahan wasn't a public park at all. Around the same time, the Women's Club induced the City to put a fence around the Park. Although this courtesy was not extended to any other organization that has been using the park on a regular basis for years, the Women's Club was conveniently given a key to the Park.

In another weird twist, a church group that booked the Women's Club to do a Thanksgiving sharing for the homeless last year got a rude surprise when they tried to do it again this year - a last minute call from the FLPD announcing that their sharing was cancelled. Again, we have the same group of privileged individuals, using the police to have their own event pulled because they got cold feed about having too many homeless around.

It is well past time that the Women's Club's ability to dictate how the homeless people around Stranahan are treated to end. Their ability to command the police to take away homeless people's belongings, in order for them to make a buck off a wedding, is absolutely repulsive.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Food Not Bombs Appeals Sharing Ban Case

Last week, attorneys for Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs filed an appeal in its effort to stop Fort Lauderdale's sharing ban law. In the original case, the judge ruled in favor of a motion for summary judgment for the defense, dismissing the case before it could head to trial. 
Food Not Bombs feels confident that the Judge's ruling did not properly reflect the group's mission to share food with the homeless as an act of protest against war and greed, which should be protected by our first amendment rights.  
Two years after the sharing ban was originally enforced against homeless advocates in downtown Fort Lauderdale, the criminal cases against food sharers are still dragging on. Closing in on nearly 3 years since city officials first announced their intent to impose a sharing ban, they still have not announced a revised sharing ban law.  
Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs stands in solidarity with all the people who have been affected by the City's anti-homeless laws and will continue to work towards a day where they are all repealed.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Proposal for New Homeless Shelter Continues Wednesday

The second meeting of the "Ad Hoc Central Fort Lauderdale Committee" for the Broward Homelessness Continuum of Care Board (COC) was a few weeks ago. Once again, the focus of the discussion turned towards a new day shelter for downtown Fort Lauderdale. One that would solve problems such as the storage ban and further reduce the chronically homeless population of downtown.

While it wouldn't solve all the problems downtown, there are some pretty big benefits to this idea. The ad hoc committee has passed a recommendation for this shelter to the full CoC board, for discussion this Wednesday at 10 am at Government Center. If it passes here, the recommendation will be moved to the Broward County Commission, who would have the power necessary to enforce it.

This shelter may have the power to save lives, and change the course of people's futures. Hopefully the rest of Broward County sees it the same way. It's a bit hard to tell if the idea has much traction in the halls of power and the general public since absolutely no one besides this site has been reporting on this issue. CoC board members have been talking about this since at least July...hopefully this becomes newsworthy soon?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sharing Ban Ruling Met with Dismay, Garlic Bread

The following is a statement from Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs after its sharing ban lawsuit was dismissed last Friday.

*******

In 2014, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed many "homeless hate laws," the last of which was a ban on sharing food in public spaces within city limits. A series of lawsuits have delayed enforcement of this law for almost 2 years. One of those lawsuits was filed by Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs. We have been sharing food downtown in Strahanan Park for about 10 years. Like Food Not Bombs chapters all over the world, we do this as an act of solidarity with the marginalized homeless people of Fort Lauderdale, and to protest the greed and militarism that prevents equity needed for the poor and oppressed people of the nation and the world. 

A Recent Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs Sharing
On Friday, the judge presiding over our food-sharing-as-protected-free-speech case finally responded to the parties' motions for summary judgment, dismissing ours and granting those of the defendants'. Fort Lauderdale, and indeed the entire federal court system, now has a fresh court victory against the rights of homeless and homeless advocates. 

Hours later, Food Not Bombs volunteers and homeless folk shared hot soup and garlic bread under the gazebo inside Stranahan Park as the rain fell. Some of those arrested in 2014 still have active criminal cases dragging on to this day. As the rain tapered off, we talked about the uncertain future ahead. 

The world didn't exactly stand still in the last 2 years. The federal government has released several briefings in an attempt to discourage cities from criminalizing homelessness. So far there's not much indication that that is curbing the City of Fort Lauderdale's habits. Commissioner Dean Trantalis has actually said on a few occasions at public county meetings over the summer that he does not think the laws are working and he would like to have them repealed.

Food Not Bombs & friends
on a walking tour of downtown last weekend
There are still other legal challenges for the sharing ban and it may be difficult to enforce the sharing ban law at this time in spite of the ruling. The City has not released any updates so far about enforcement of the sharing ban.

In the end, the Judge ruled that our food sharings simply don't qualify as first amendment activities. This is a peculiar notion. Food Not Bombs and other activists have joined together at food sharings to show solidarity with the oppressed, and to express outrage over an inequitable status quo, for a decade now. The messages, solidarity, and actions that take place in Stranahan Park continue to reverberate across Broward County and the state of Florida.

We can't say for certain anything about the ongoing legal status of our sharings at this time. Besides Fridays at Stranahan, it's theoretically possible the Sistrunk Sharing could be affected as well, which takes place this coming Wednesday. For now we continue to encourage the rebel food sharers of South Florida to continue to visit Stranahan Park. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Downtown Disposium - The Tour!

As previously discussed, the DDA wants to impress its friends with its many accomplishments next week. We would like to impress our friends with its many failures, and the failures of the other cronies that make up Fort Lauderdale's upper crust.

On Saturday, September 24th, there will be walking tour of downtown Fort Lauderdale, starting at 3 pm at Stranahan Park. Food Not Bombs & company will be helping everyone take in the sights and stories of some of the most hotly contested parts of downtown. There's a lot more wrong with this City than the Mayor or the City Manager.

From FATS Village to Riverwalk, there's a lot of millionaires who are working closely to ensure that the future of downtown is one for the wealthy, and not for the homeless, the working class, or the Black community of Sistrunk. In the meantime, we have some infographics up as well as last weeks' introductory video,

Onward to the Downtown Disposium, next weekend!
All Aboard Florida/Brightline in Fort Lauderdale \ Downtown Disposium

Broward County Continuum of Care Board \ Downtown Disposium

Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority \ Downtown Disposium

Fort Lauderdale NW Progresso Flagler CRA \ Downtown Disposium

Stranahan Park \ Downtown Disposium

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Downtown Disposium

On Friday, September 23rd, The Downtown Development Authority of Fort Lauderdale will be hosting a "Downtown Symposium." Local developers and politicians will be rubbing shoulders with visiting DDA representatives from other states, and presumably touting the many exciting projects the DDA has been promoting in recent years.

In reality, the DDA is another piece of the problem in Fort Lauderdale; another City entity meant to serve the public interest, controlled by millionaire developers and property owners. They try to avoid the limelight, but there are plenty of stories out there about their recent efforts. There's their role in supporting the City's homeless hate laws. The money pit known as the Wave Street Car. Their attempts to privatize Huzienga Plaza. Their illegal campaign contributions to Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners. Another project, the "yellow shirt" Ambassador Program" is a low-security team recently implemented to make sure poor people don't bother wealthy people in the Riverwalk area. It also has a sleazy origin story within the DDA.

The biggest problem of all is that these entities don't even operate in great secrecy, but rather in a vacuum, deprived of public interest and oversight. Few can define what a Downtown Development Authority or a Community Redevelopment Agency is. Fewer still can explain how their relationship with the wealthiest interests in Fort Lauderdale can make incredibly toxic long-term consequences for the poor people of Broward County.

With that in mind, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs welcomes the public to learn about these concepts, from a grassroots perspective, at their own Downtown Disposium at the end of September. We'll be throwing a lot of information on this blog between now and the end of the month to build this understanding.

On Friday, September 23rd, we encourage the public to help welcome DDA guests at the Broward Performing Arts Center.

Finally, on Saturday, September 24th, we're taking everyone on a tour of Fort Lauderdale for the Downtown Disposium. This walking tour of downtown will introduce everyone to concepts like DDA's, CRA's, and how it relates to rapidly gentifying streets, from Sistrunk to Riverwalk.

Lots of details will be announced later. For now, enjoy this educational video about the Downtown Disposium.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Homeless Board Doesn't Want Homeless Advocates & More

After a long delay, Broward County's Continuum Care of Board met again on Wednesday, September 8th, and there was much to discuss. One of the most surprising, and contentious subjects of discussion, was a proposal to reduce the amount of "homeless advocate" seats on the CoC Board from 4 to 1 and replace them with representatives from local Chambers of Commerce and other County administrative roles. The proposal also called for the seats reserved for the Homeless Providers and Shareholders Committee from 2, to 1, another seat that usually represents homeless services workers.

The overall effect was to replace almost all the homeless advocates on the board with even more bureaucrats, of which there are already close to 20. It would be misleading to say that this seemed like an overly popular idea amongst the CoC board, and frankly it's a bit of a mystery how this even came up in the first place. The proposal, which was not disclosed and voted on in a typical manner for the CoC, ignited yet another great debate at the meeting, and it was decided that the issue would be brought to the Broward County Commission sometime in the next month or two.

What will the Broward County Commission say about that? We hope to have more insight on that later.

County & City Dance Around Anti-Homeless Laws
One CoC Board Member who has not been seen much this summer is Broward County Commissioner / Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief. The Vice Mayor was actually pretty vocal this time, and, when weighing in on the ongoing quagmire that is the Fort Lauderdale Storage Ban Saga, said that she felt the County should do something right away to resolve this issue. But, she also felt the first step would be for the City of Fort Lauderdale should repeal the storage ban. And Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis agreed. 

This is not the first time we have reported Commissioner Trantalis as saying that the anti-homeless laws of Fort Lauderdale should be gotten rid of. However so far very few people have continued to push the Commission on this issue and it just seems to be all talk. At this time, the homeless hate laws are not going anywhere until there's a little more pressure on the people involved.

Fort Lauderdale's Brightline/All Aboard Florida station
Fort Lauderdale's Great Homeless Displacement Master-Plan Isn't Looking So Good

Also worth mentioning is a fantastic new article by the Florida Bulldog. Martin and Indian River counties have been suing All Aboard Florida, the commuter train line that has been putting in huge new train stations in Broward, Miami, and Palm Beach counties this year. The case is not going well for All Aboard Florida and has led to speculation that AAF is running out of money.

This creates a peculiar scenario for the City of Fort Lauderdale. The All Aboard Florida station in downtown Fort Lauderdale is at the center of a development plan to completely re-make the areas that have been the primary spot for chronically homeless people to stay in the area for decades. What would become of this massive, half built train station, and the retail and condo properties planned for the surrounding blocks, if AAF collapses? What would the City, DDA, and other elite interests do if their primary scheme for permanently displacing homeless people in downtown, results in even more un-used and half-realized properties in the very area that was to be gentrified?

Our only insight at this time is that the train station facade would make for a lovely new homeless shelter.