Elderly Florida Man Continues to Feed the Homeless Despite New Law Making it Illegal

( [email protected] ) Nov 06, 2014 05:53 PM EST
Arnold Abbott
Arnold Abbott being questioned by the Fort Lauderdale Police. Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP

A 90-year old Florida man is not deterred by a new law that makes it illegal to give food away to the homeless on public property, saying that he doesn't plan to "give up the beach."

Arnold "Chef Arnold" Abbot has been handing out food to Fort Lauderdale's homeless for 23 years now, but a new law that was passed on October 21 and went into effect last week states that Abbott's charity is now illegal.

Abbott and area two pastors were charged with breaking the new law last weekend as they handed out food to a crowd of homeless people who have come to depend on Abbott's generosity. If convicted, Abbott and the pastors could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. 

"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," Abbott said.

But that didn't stop the group from returning on Wednesday to serve a four-course meal on the same beach. Police stood by and filmed the crowd of over 100 homeless as they cheered Abbot and his crew on. The officers approached the esteemed humanitarian once again, ordering him to shut his operation down.

According to a report at ABC News, the Fort Lauderdale Police have sent a subpeona to Abbott and a judge will take it from there. Then the decision will be made if the elderly man will need to serve the jail time and pay the fine.

Abbott is a World War II veteran and civil rights activist who says that he's been doing this for over two decades in honor of his late wife. In addition to the food giveaway, Abbott also offers free culinary classes to help the homeless feed themselves and find jobs in that field.

"It's a public safety issue. It's a public health issue," Fort Lauderdale's Mayor Jack Seiler told WPLG News. "The experts have all said that if you're going to feed them to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you're doing is enabling that cycle of homelessness. They don't interact with anyone, they don't receive the aid that they need."

This isn't the first time that Abbott has faced criminal charges for his humanitarian aid. He sued the city in 1999 after they tried to stop him from feeding the homeless on a public beach, even before the law came into effect. Abbott won the case three times in circuit court and another two times in the court of appeals.

There is a sunny side to Abbott's plans, though. A local church has offered its own private property to allow the man to continue his service this Sunday where he expects to see nearly 200 people in attendance.