Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Storage Ban Resistance Recap

Response since we first broke this story Monday night has been swift. Within a couple hours, homeless advocates and supporters began bringing tubs & suitcases to Stranahan Park. By early afternoon, all but 3 bags that could not be identified, were replaced. It was great effort by everyone and the people of Stranahan were very happy to see so much help coming to resolve this situation. If only it were like this every day.
Dean Trantalis, city commissioner,
and Marshall Schnipper, homeless advocate

Homeless advocates and camera crews stood by the entire day, but no confiscations took place. It would seem the amount of scrutiny these stickers created have, at least for now, dissuaded the enforcement of the sharing ban. Channel 10 even interviewed some homeless people about it. Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis also stopped by to see what was going on. The police were quoted by the news as saying something about how cleaning up debris is an important social service or something, but anyway they largely kept their non-confrontational approach on Tuesday.

Public reaction over the last couple of years has really been all-or-nothing; there was very little outrage when this law passed 2 years ago. But, it was never enforced, and enforcement of many of the other 2014 laws has been difficult to gauge. Trespassing, camping, and panhandling enforcement have all been increased in the last few years and easily create some of the worst suffering in downtown Fort Lauderdale. However these homeless policing activities rarely face much public scorn or scrutiny. 
We are actually still receiving interest from supporters about bringing more containers to the Park. While it seems like the confiscation threat is over for the immediate future, please be assured that any such donations would be readily accepted by people living around Stranahan Park at any time. Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs would also be happy to handle any such requests.

Monday, April 18, 2016

FLPD Announces Stranahan Homeless Property Seizures

 After a 2 year lull, the City of Fort Lauderdale appears to be finally be enforcing the "storage ban" it introduced in 2014 along with a slew of other anti-homeless laws. Homeless people who stay on the sidewalk in front of Stranahan Park were informed today that their property is to be confiscated under this law some time tomorrow.

The law says that these possessions will be put into storage at the FLPD headquarters and that homeless people have 30 days to come and reclaim them. As far as anyone knows, this law has never been enforced until today, and now only against the people of Stranahan Park. Rarely has so many laws been created against people in such a small geographic location....

Tensions were still high today at the park over this sudden announcement, with several people complaining about how, already burdened with medical problems and no transportation, they also expected to walk several miles to get their stuff back in the next few days. Many people were still sitting next to their marked belongings. One homeless man was seen debating a FLPD officer who was driving by at the time. Most said that they had spoken at length with an FLPD officer earlier in the day, who informed them what to expect, which was that if any of the marked trash bags on the sidewalk were not removed, they would be confiscated, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning.

Although the conversation was reported as amicable, the majority of the people on the street seemed very upset about this. One struggles to find the potential benefits to the enforcement of this law compared to the suffering created by separating a poverty-stricken person from their only possessions. One person said that someone from the Ft Lauderdale Women's Club had been complaining loudly recently about the amount of things being stored along the fence of Stranahan.

Another man had another perspective: "Our greatest enemy is the police."