Florida Freeze-Out for Foodservers

NOTES BY NORSE:  Ft. Lauderdale is following in the pawprints of Santa Cruz with enhanced anti-homeless laws. The impact of the federal Pottinger settlement of 15 years ago still resounds.   It required that shelter beds be made available before criminal action is taken against the homeless for “life-sustaining misdemeanors” like sleeping, sitting, crapping, and pissing.  Santa Cruz has no such protection for the poor.

There’s the infamous Sleeping Ban (MC 6.36.010a \) , prohibiting homeless survival sleeping from 11 PM to 8:30 AM on any public and much private property.  The unconstitutional 1 day Stay-Away Bans from the massive Parks ad Recreation controlled areas of town, passed unanimously by City Council in 2013 [MC 13.08.100] has impacted hundreds of homeless people and cash-poor travelers.  The “homeless as pests ” ‘Mosquito’ Noise devices are designed to drive homeless people away from areas under bridges, at the Boardwalk, and in the Harvey West.   Using “profane” language that “interferes” with the use of a City park, is also illegal, thanks to the Terrazas/Mathews City Council [MC 13.08.090]. On the morning after Halloween, police massive rousted folks sheltering under bridges and presented them with $158 camping citations–though there’was no legal shelter that night. 

And on Tuesday November 11th, City Council is scheduled to do a final reading to an explosive expansion of Stay-Away orders that have no court oversight, giving City Manager Boss Bernal and Parks and Recreation Czarina Shoemaker massive powers to ban those violating rules [MC 1 they have implemented without Council vote for a week, a month, six months, even up to a year].   Downtown, the new “performers pens” law–also up for final vote on November 11th–will “generously” expand usable public sitting, vending, sparechanging, tabling, and musician space to 3% of the public sidewalk, continuing to make its use outside those areas a $200-300 crime with a “Move Along” requirement every hour [http://scsire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=570&doctype=AGENDA , Item 19; Move-Along: MC 5.43.020(2)]. 

All regular outdoor feeding operations have been driven indoors with the exception of the militant Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs, which continues to provide vegan meals every Saturday and Sunday 4-6 PM near the main post office.  Food services at the Circle Church have been sharply curtailed; the Red Church now has imposed Public Assembly restrictions, banning homeless sitting on its lawn from 5-6 PM

Lauderdale weighs new homeless crackdown

By Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel  September 2 2014

FORT LAUDERDALE It’s OK to be homeless in the city, as long as you don’t panhandle drivers at busy intersections, catch some sleep on a downtown bench, go to the bathroom outdoors or store your belongings on public property.

The city has been cracking down this year on homeless-related activities that bother many of its residents, visitors and businesses. Commissioners have already passed a law allowing police to confiscate unattended belongings left on public property and they’ve toughened one that outlaws defecating in public.

On Wednesday, they will consider a downtown “camping” law prohibiting people from sleeping on public property there with their belongings. They will also debate a ban on solicitations along the city’s busiest roadways, something a number of Broward cities have already done.

Each offense would be punishable by up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine, or both.

City Manager Lee Feldman said the proposals address quality-of-life concerns that give residents “a diminished sense of safety” and “threaten the viability of businesses.”

Advocates for the homeless say it is a relentless barrage.

“It looks like the city is choking out every avenue for the homeless to survive in the city,” said Haylee Becker of the group Food Not Bombs, which has opposed the city’s efforts. “I think that they’re all terrible ordinances, but coupled together, it’s a death sentence.”

City leaders disagree, saying the proposals are one part of a comprehensive approach to the homeless. The city this year is using a $440,000 federal grant to provide apartments to those most at risk of dying on the street. So far, 16 people have been placed in the program, Feldman said.

The city has bought one-way bus tickets to reunite homeless with their families elsewhere in the country and the police department has a homeless outreach team.

City officials say they face issues other cities don’t because homeless people picked up for infractions in other cities are taken to the county jail downtown and released into the area after a court appearance, adding to the downtown homeless population.

The Broward County Homeless Initiative Partnership counted nearly 500 homeless people in the county during a Jan. 23 survey, with about half living between Oakland Park Boulevard south to State Road 84.

The city’s latest proposed laws have been tailored to withstand legal objections. All solicitations on high-traffic streets would be banned, including those by nonprofit and charitable groups.

But it may be hard for people to know exactly where they can solicit.

That’s because the ban relies on county calculations that divide major roadways into segments and rates each portion from A to F based on their traffic levels. Solicitations would be prohibited only in segments with failing D, E and F levels.

For instance, soliciting would be prohibited on most portions of Sunrise Boulevard but would be permitted on the section between Northwest Seventh Avenue east to where it connects to U.S. 1.

It would not be legal to solicit along busy Southeast Third Avenue at Las Olas Boulevard, but it would be permissible to solicit along Las Olas at the same intersection because it has better traffic flow.

The anti-camping law applies only to the downtown area, which generally extends from Sunrise Boulevard south to Southwest Seventh Street, between Southwest Seventh Avenue and Federal Highway. It doesn’t include nearby Holiday Park, which is heavily used by the homeless.

Before an arrest can be made or citation issued under the proposed camping law, officers must first determine whether the person needs medical or human services assistance, including mental health treatment. Violators can be issued a citation only if they aren’t in need of help or if they refuse needed help.

Confiscated belongings under the law can be recovered at the police department for up to 30 days, except items in an “unsanitary condition.”

Fort Lauderdale commissioners ended a marathon meeting early Wednesday by giving final approval to new restrictions on where and how charitable groups can feed the homeless in the city.

October 22, 2014  http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-lauderdale-homeless-feeding-sites-20141021-story.html

The commission didn’t take up the issue until 2 a.m. and passed the new law at 3:30 a.m.
Commissioners heard from the opponents most of the night, as several dozen chanted outside the glass walls of the commission chambers — making it hard for people inside to hear the discussion on other agenda items.

Love thy Neighbor

Volunteers from Love thy Neighbor, feed homeless people Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, at Stranahan Park in Fort Lauderdale. (Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

Homeless advocates put together a “mass solidarity food sharing” in front of City Hall prior to the meeting Tuesday evening, and several dozen held up signs facing the chambers in protest.

“Blood, blood, blood on your hands. Shame, shame, shame on [Mayor Jack] Seiler,” they called in unison as the commission discussed an unrelated issue.

“Hey, Jack, what do you say? How many homeless did you starve today?” they continued.

By 9 p.m., with the outdoor protesters still going strong, Seiler asked police officers to move the group back 20 feet to make it easier to hear inside.
The feeding restrictions are the latest in a series of measures enacted by the city. Officials describe them as “public health and safety measures,” but opponents have labeled them “homeless hate laws.”

The new rules say that feeding sites cannot be within 500 feet of each other, that only one is allowed in any given city block and that any site would have to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties.
Commissioners agreed to permit most churches to have indoor feeding programs, even those close to residential neighborhoods.

But the exception did not apply to outdoor programs. Organizations distributing food outdoors would also need the permission of the property owner and would have to provide portable toilets for use by workers and those being fed.

The rules could force organizations such as Love Thy Neighbor, which has been providing weekly meals to the homeless on the beach and at Stranahan Park downtown, to cease those operations.

Irene Smith, who is active with Love Thy Neighbor, told commissioners the weekly feedings give workers a chance to network with the homeless and maybe help them to a better situation.

“The feedings are just considered an eyesore to you guys,” Smith said. “We see these meals as a starting point.”

Earlier in the day, commissioners heard from Ron Book, a city lobbyist who is also chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, who told them they were doing the right thing.

“Feeding people on the streets is sanctioning homelessness,” Book said. “Whatever discourages feeding people on the streets is a positive thing.”

The commission voted 4-1 in favor of the new regulations. While Commissioner Dean Trantalis voted no, he said his opposition wasn’t with the feeding restrictions but with other parts of the law that would greatly concentrate social service facilities in Flagler Village and a few other downtown neighborhoods.
Commissioners said they will look at reworking those zoning portions and instructed staff to bring back proposed revisions in 90 days.
Besides enacting the feeding restrictions, the commission this year followed the lead of a number of other South Florida communities and banned the homeless and others from soliciting at the city’s busiest intersections. It has outlawed sleeping on public property downtown, toughened laws against defecating in public and made it illegal for people to store personal belongings on public property.
Commissioners say they’re also working to assist the homeless. In January, the city became part of a grant to provide permanent housing to 22 people identified as chronically homeless. It also runs an outreach program through its police department and supports the homeless assistance center run by the Broward Partnership.
The city’s new budget includes $25,000 to buy one-way bus tickets for homeless people who want to reunite with their families in other parts of the country.
Staff writer Ariel Barkhurst contributed to this report.
lbarszewski@tribpub.com or 954-356-4556

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel

Some homeless worried about changes

Michael Schroeder, 61, sits on a park bench at midnight in Fort Lauderdale’s downtown Riverwalk area. (Photo by Joe Rondone)
By Joe Rondone, Forum Publishing Group contact the reporter

October 23  2014

Michael Schroeder has lived in Fort Lauderdale for 12 years, the last four of them homeless. The 61-year-old has become accustomed to tough nights sleeping, often being rustled awake and asked to move along.

“You keep moving, you know; you move from one spot to another every night, so you’re not a target,” he said.

He’s among those concerned about recent laws passed by the city and criticized by the homeless and their advocates, including a ban on panhandling at busy intersections, of sleeping on public property, and of outdoor storage of personal belongings on public property.

Asked how he’ll be able to find a safe place to sleep with the new rules, Schroeder replied: “That’s a hell of a question. You just keep moving until you’re out of sight; you settle in somewhere. If you get people out of Fort Lauderdale, the next city down the road will pass the same rules. You get bounced around like a ping pong ball.”

Enforcement will focus on the downtown area that runs roughly from Northwest Sixth to Southwest Seventh streets and Federal Highway to Seventh Avenue. It’s an area that the city’s Downtown Development Authority has outlined a plan to “establish, maintain and preserve aesthetic values and preserve and foster the development and display of attractiveness.”

“The ordinances address the downtown development association, focusing primarily on the business in their association area,” said Officer Thomas Stenger, who works the midnight shift in District 3, which includes downtown. “When it gets to the other areas, then what? You’re never accomplishing anything; you’re just trying to find the best balance for the complaints that are being made. The DDA is very boisterous with the city right now. The city is taking those comments and suggestions and trying to find a solution.”

Jason Lee has lived on the streets since 2003. He’s particularly concerned about the anti-solicitation rules.

“If I go to the homeless task force and ask them to place me and they tell me they have no bunk beds available, they give me a one-way bus pass and place me in the [Broward Outreach Center] in Pompano,” he said. “Then when they kick me out at 6 a.m., I’m out panhandling to get back to Fort Lauderdale. Why can’t I ask for help?”

City officials have said the new rules are needed to prevent car accidents involving panhandlers and to boost downtown revitalization efforts, which are undermined by homeless people living and sleeping on public property there.

Stenger said the rules’ ultimate impact remains to be seen.

“Ultimately, none of these ordinances will solve the problem, but they will alleviate the problem in this area,” he said. “… Ultimately, [fighting] crime always ends up being pushing it from one place to another.”

Joe Rondone can be reached at jrondone@tribune.com.

Police shut down Stranahan Park homeless feeding site, cite activists for breaking new law

Citations issued in Fort Lauderdale

Homeless advocate Arnold Abbott gets a citation for violating new law banning feeding homeless in Stranahan Park. (Mike Clary)
Police swoop in to shut down Fort Lauderdale homeless feeding effort Sunday
Three people cited for violating new law by feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale

Uniformed police shut down an effort to provide lunch to scores of homeless in Stranahan Park on Sunday, enforcing a law passed recently that puts new limits on outdoor feeding sites.

At least three people were cited for violating the new ordinance, including two members of the clergy and a 90-year-old advocate who has handed out food to the homeless for more than 20 years.

Arnold Abbott, who heads the group Love Thy Neighbor, said he had served only three or four of about 300 meals he had prepared when police ordered him to stop.

Abbott, the Rev. Mark Sims, of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, and the Rev. Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, were each cited for willfully violating a city ordinance. Police issued them notices to appear in court, where they could be asked to explain their actions.

The ordinance, approved by the city commission Oct. 22, is one of several recent efforts by officials to crack down on the city’s burgeoning downtown homeless population.

The latest law, which took effect Friday, limits where outdoor feeding sites can be located, requires the permission of property owners and says the groups have to provide portable toilets.

Abbott, who has won past legal battles with the city over feeding restrictions, has vowed to go to court again.

“We are simply trying to feed people who are hungry,” said Sims. “To criminalize that is contrary to everything that I stand for as a priest and as a person of faith.”

Mayor Jack Seiler defended the law and its intent.

“I’m not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in city of Fort Lauderdale,” said Seiler. “Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive.”

One alternative, he said, was the homeless assistance center run by the Broward Partnership.

Black said he understood that large groups of homeless persons are considered undesirable by city officials, downtown residents and business owners. “But let’s just feed them,” said Black, “and then deal with other issues.”