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Fort Lauderdale Mayor Speaks Up About Homeless Debate

Lynne Sladky
El Nuevo Herald

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler is adamant about the city's ordinances relating to homeless issues. He has said, as have other city commissioners, that the laws are for public safety.

That hasn't softened the blow of the international scrutiny from social media as well as the late night shows, including The Colbert Report.

But a lot of that controversy has died down. Last week Arnold Abbott, the man at the center of this debate for feeding homeless people, was in court twice. Once for a challenge he's put on the city's ordinance, the second time for citations he's received for breaking those ordinances.

What came of it? 

A Broward County Judge ordered no more citations against people feeding the homeless for the next thirty days. In the second case, a second judge ordered Abbott to sit down and work things out with the city in mediation.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler

Mayor Jack Seiler says the city has reached out to Mr. Abbott to help him feed more people. Seiler says that Abbott, and other groups in the city, are providing a much needed service. But, he says that he simply wants Abbott and others to do it within the parameters of the law.

Seiler also said about some of the reports in the media of past incidents between Abbott and the police that "no one was taken into custody."

Seiler also argued that the ordinance does not ban feeding the homeless.

"In fact, we actually provided more authorized locations indoors for feeding the homeless than the prior laws allowed." Seiler continues to argue that the ordinance is a public safety issue.

Abbott continues to say he will feed the homeless in the same way he has. Seiler says this will likely end up having to be resolved in court.

Below, read the ordinance regulating feeding locations for the homeless.


WHEREAS, it is the purpose of this ordinance to regulate social service facilities in order to promote the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the residents of the City of Fort Lauderdale; and CODING: Words, symbols, and letters stricken are deletions; words, symbols, and letters underlined are additions.

WHEREAS, to establish reasonable and uniform regulations to prevent the deleterious secondary effects of social service facilities within the City; and

WHEREAS, the provisions of this ordinance have neither the purpose nor effect of restricting or denying any individuals freedom of speech or association; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA:

Read the full ordinance here.

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.
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