Thursday, March 3, 2016

No End in Sight for Prosecution of Rebel Food Sharers

In November 2014, a handful of activists and homeless advocates were infamously arrested or ticketed for sharing food with the homeless.

While outrage over this issue has waned over time, at least 4 of the people ticketed at Food Not Bombs sharings in 2014 have been stuck in courtroom purgatory for 16 months as the City refuses to either drop their cases or bring them to trial. Defendants have experienced a never-ending series of status hearings that go nowhere, or no updates or calendar dates whatsoever for their cases, which held a maximum punishment of a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

The City of Fort Lauderdale still has a resource page on its website to remind everyone how fair and necessary the sharing ban law is. But there is little explanation online, or in the courthouse, for why people who were arbitrarily punished for sharing food with the indigent in November of 2014 still have to retain legal representation and worry about how many more months, or years, they will have to wait until they get a day in court.

The sharing ban law, along with so many other City Municipal codes that target homeless activities, has always been, and still is, unfair. By contrast, the last Florida Congressional elections took place the same week as these arrests, and their terms are nearly up while these minor civil infractions drag on.

Price Tag Solution
On a related note, the Sun Sentinel published a story today, extensively quoting Mayor Seiler and other public officials, claiming that $11 million dollars is all that is missing for Broward County to permanently take care of all the homeless. If this sounds ridiculous to anyone than you haven't spent nearly enough time with anyone involved in the Broward County Continuum of Care Board, which is eternally convinced that massive government spending is all that is needed to help homeless people. True to the standards by which the media has covered homeless issues in the area, this 1,000 word essay is composed entirely of quotes by individuals whose job and reputation depends on painting a cheery picture on homelessness in the area.

No homeless people were quoted. Solutions such as opening the thousands of empty buildings in the County do not exist in this appraisal. Mayor Seiler is quoted as saying he will "consider" this funding, of which Fort Lauderdale would pay about $500k/year.

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