For 25 years Father Bob Caudill provided a daily afternoon meal for homeless and hungry folk out of the Soup Kitchen at All Saints Mission in Oakland Park. Supported by a crew of loving volunteers, Father Bob is just about always on hand to offer a kind word, a few bucks or, if need be, to dole out a portion of whatever happens to be on the day’s wholesome menu, himself.
For 25 years, city officials more and sometimes less tolerated his presence and that of those he served, the homeless folk who are in need. In the past six months, however, all that began to change.
Yours truly speaking out at Oakland Park Commission on December 16:
Like in so many cities large and small across the country, including its notoriously mean neighbor to the south, Fort Lauderdale, a revised 2014 zoning law geared to encourage new business development in Oakland Park is now being used in an effort to rid the area of the Soup Kitchen.
Even Father Bob’s effort to comply with the ordinance, including his moving the food sharing from a nearby parish house to inside the church, didn’t keep the city from imposing a $500/day fine on Father Bob. Owing to a local magistrate’s ruling the fines are now on hold, and another hearing is scheduled for January 19 to determine the Soup Kitchen’s status. Official harassment by code enforcement, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and even the city library, however, have been ongoing.
More than once code enforcement showed up to inform Father Bob that the statue of Jesus that adorns his property had to be relocated to another part of his property, since somehow it was obstructing the vision of drivers passing by the property. Neither Bob nor Jesus was amused.
The Oakland Park Library suddenly began refusing to give the Soup Kitchen donations of canned goods it receives to pass on to various local charities.
Then, beyond mere harassment into the realm of intimidation, Broward Sheriff’s District Captain Al Hubrig warned Father Bob not to go through with a planned demonstration at Commissioner John Adornato’s business in Hollywood – a city not even under BSO jurisdiction. First the warning came via a phone conversation, then the Captain and an underling showed up uninvited to Father Bob’s residence the night before the planned demonstration, which was nonetheless carried out with support from October 22nd Alliance and other Soup Kitchen faithful.