Teflon Chefs and Callous Commissioners, Repentant Reporters, Bruised Bureaucrats …and Hurray for Human Rights!

To begin, an apology of sorts. The work I’m engaged in, to understate it a bit, is overwhelming. And the way this unfortunately goes, at least for now, is that the last task on the list is to update the website. Hopefully we’ll be able to do better going forward.

It’s been well over a month since, with the help of allies, I organized demonstrations to call out Fort Lauderdale’s Beach Business Improvement District investment of roughly $65,000 – approved unanimously by Mayor Jack Seiler and the City Commission – to enhance two bourgeois food events connected to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Of course, it’s the BBID’s job to promote the beach as a tourist attraction. Fort Laudy’s beach is all about those tourism dollars, and it’s the primary engine that drives the city’s economy. But in a city which, in 2014, notoriously arrested and fined folks for sharing food with our hungry and homeless citizens, and has plans to do it again if city leaders feel that conditions will allow it, the haves v. have-nots imagery stands out starkly against a vision of fairness and democracy for the majority. So we’ll pick up where we left off back in February.


No fines for food sharing!

No fines for food sharing!

Teflon Chefs and Callous Commissioners

By the time of our protest actions on February 24 and 28, respectively held at the hoity toity foodie events at the Bonnet House and the Ritz-Carlton, it was clear that it was time, as the saying goes, to stick a fork in any hope that we’d receive a positive response to our demands, because sho nuff they were done. And not on the rare, but on the common side, in other words, overcooked. Our call-outs of celeb chefs like Robert Irvine, Ted ‘Ted Doesn’t Talk’ Allen and the cast of the hit Food Network show, Chopped, slid off them like sautéed mushrooms slide off a Teflon pan. No residue. Forgotten. Digested or not, it’s all the same to the gentry.

Despite our emails and tweets calling on them to stand up for the hungry and unhoused, these chefs weren’t about biting the feeding hands of our commissioners, who had so callously and clumsily buttered these chefs’ gourmet bread. And so, the celebrity chefs along with their engorged cohort, who do their charity only when it’s safe, keep getting richer and more famous, while their underlings tend to the crèmes brûlées, and if those sharing food with poor folk are criminalized, oh well, then it must be because it’s their just dessert.

Beyond chefdom and homeless-hating commissioners, however, we did get one reply (of sorts) to our call outs. FIU Chaplin School Dean Mike Hampton, whose school benefits to the tune of over $20 million from the SOBE fest, responded to our asking him to condemn the banning of food sharing by pointing to the charity his school engages in by providing food to shelters and the like. A friend of mine noted that, 60 years ago, this would’ve been like saying ‘Some of my best friends are black’ in response to demands to condemn Jim Crow. So, Dean Hampton, we’re happy to know some of your best friends give food to peeps who are hungry. (But what about laws that would have them fined for doing just that?! C’mon Dean, digest it.)


Repentant Reporters

O22A WomensClubStranahanPk2

Ft Lauderdale Women’s Club adjacent to Stranahan Park. Ms. Smith, you don’t own it!

From the unaccountable to the commendably accountable we go. Mike Clary, a senior staffer with the Sun-Sentinel, has covered issues related to homelessness for a long time, along with his other reporting. He’s interviewed me on occasion, and I’ve always found his stories to be well-researched and balanced. So when he came out on March 25 with a flat out hit piece demonizing homeless folk who hang out at downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Stranahan Park, I wasn’t the only local who was miffed, and a bit shocked.

The paper, to its credit, replied positively to my emailed appeal to respond to the article by offering me 500+ words in a ‘Viewpoint’ column, which was published on April 5. I’ve included it below for any of you who might have issues with the paper’s paywall.

As for Mike Clary and commendable accountability, he called me the morning the piece came out and with humble magnanimity and great humor started off, ‘This is Mike Clary, so-called journalist.’ I was floored with gratitude to hear the echo of words I’d harshly, but not wrongly, deployed in my opinion piece. During the 20 minute chat that followed, Mike acknowledged that his piece hadn’t been balanced. So, one awful piece of journalism aside, Mike Clary is my hero of the month. In a world where too often nobody seems accountable for anything from propaganda passing as journalism to global ecocide, Mike was assertively accountable. Big prop’s to you, Mr. Clary! Now here’s that editorial:

Prejudice only worsens city’s homeless problem
by Jeff Weinberger

As an organizer and activist working toward ending homelessness, perhaps the greatest obstacles to achieving that aim that I and my like-minded allies encounter day-to-day are prejudice and ignorance. And fear which, when left to muddy the waters of compassion and reason, can readily turn to hate. This is natural. After all, when we refuse to address our problems with compassion and reason, and with a sincere desire to get to their roots, the next best thing will always regrettably turn on a desire to simply make them go away or to destroy what we perceive to be their cause.

Sadly, compassion and reason too often seem to have completely checked out of our social discourse, where that still exists, to have been replaced by the dictates of power and money. And for the maintenance of power and money for the few, the demonization and consequent criminalization of those we deem outside the bounds of respectable society has always served a vital function. More sadly, the very institutions that we count on to get to the truth of such matters, e.g., newspapers which employ so-called journalists, too often abandon that role in favor of serving as mouthpieces for the gentry.

While these sentiments of hate and a desire to destroy homeless folk may not be explicitly stated in last week’s Sun-Sentinel article, “Makeover effort stymied as downtown park overrun by homelessness, vandalism,” they imbue its tone from start to finish, from the headline to the closing quote in which Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler acknowledges first his frustration over the homeless folk who hang out around the city’s centerpiece, Stranahan Park, and then his hope “that more of homeless will seek and accept assistance.”

To the uninitiated, while those words may look good on their surface, they couldn’t be more disingenuous. The mayor well knows that the city provides virtually nothing in the way of shelter and services for those in need. Funds for whatever shelter and services are available come from outside the city’s own coffers. And when the city was granted federal funds to administer a Housing First program to house 22 chronically homeless persons, it was discovered last year that its Housing Authority was charging Broward County, through which the funds flowed, far above fair market rents. Over $60,000 had to be returned to the feds owing to its exploitative negligence.

The main character in this article, Fort Lauderdale Woman’s Club President Jo Ann Smith, meanwhile, uses her space to blame the homeless folk, who have nowhere else to go and for whom the environs of the park are as good as it gets, for everything from killing her mosquitofish, to their copious excretions and thieving of the aluminum stakes which identify the plants in her would-be botanicum. And of course their criminality must, according to the logic of hate, run even deeper, so she adds for good measure, “I think they use them as weapons.”

Reacting to the appearance of feces on one of the park’s walkways, Smith assumes, “It’s disrespect.” But does she ever consider that it may have been her own disrespect which presumed she can have an idyllic park adjacent to her idyllic club in a city and a nation which, rather than providing housing and services for the unhoused and downtrodden, treats them like human garbage and then criminalizes their very existence? Perhaps she would consider that, but the reporter never asked.

Jeff Weinberger is an organizer and co-founder of October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

Copyright © 2016, Sun Sentinel


Bruised Broward Bureaucrat

bullshit_meme

While that title might qualify for the tongue-twister of the year award, the twisted state of political reality in our county deserves only scorn. I’ll spare sharing with you, kind readers, the litany of corruption, negligence, indifference and mismanagement to which local politicians at every level of government, from school boards to the county commission, have by turns subjected us. Many of you, no doubt, already know a lot of that history anyway. Not to mention, our focus needs always to have a homelessness angle. That’s why we’re here.

To get down to it, the most powerful man in Broward County’s homeless care system is in the process of being exposed as a fraud. By yours truly. On top of one lie, his claim that he sent an important policy-related memo to the county administrator, which he asserted last October 7 to the entire Continuum of Care Board – the body which advises the county commission on homelessness-related issues – this man more recently sought to CHA – 3rd person of CYA – by refusing to immediately acknowledge the non-existence of that very memo, which I’d been seeking to obtain via a Florida Public Records Act request. Instead, he sought to charge me a fee, estimated at first by his office to be $118, for a public document he knew didn’t exist. Knowingly misleading someone in the fulfillment of a FL statutory record request has the potential to be charged as a 1st Degree Misdemeanor.

The icing on this shit cake is that the memo, which we now know he didn’t send, was allegedly to obtain direction from the county administrator on how the CoC Board should address concerns about criminalizing homelessness to municipalities throughout the county, most obviously Fort Lauderdale, which is Homeless Hate Central. The CoC Board has done virtually nothing to address criminalization of homelessness, even in the face of new federal guidelines which call for defunding communities that continue to pass laws targeting homeless folk, like camping, panhandling and food sharing bans.

His misstep, as of the week past, has been shared with the entire county commission as well as all CoC Board members. As this story unfolds, we’ll keep you posted.


Human Rights for Unhoused People

O22A StopCriminalization

Our proposal to Broward County to add ‘housing status’ as a protected category under its Human Rights Act, which rocketed through two committees not long after it was proposed in June, 2015, has fallen prey to that ubiquitous governmental monster, aka The Bureaucracy (including the aforementioned Bruised Broward Bureaucrat). It is, however, still very much alive, moving forward now at a tortoise’s rather than a hare’s pace. A hopeful thought might be found in knowing who won that race.

Aside from the support of our local allies and members of October 22nd Alliance, we’ve recently also gotten the powerful backing of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, whose senior staff attorney, Eric Tars, provided Human Rights Board Chairman Michael Rajner a detailed letter that makes an eloquent case for our proposal. The letter also argues for going beyond just ‘housing status’ to include ‘source-of-income status’ as a protected category under the Act. Source-of-income protections exist in communities across the country, and have long been touted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition as a vital legal shield to protect people living in poverty, e.g., former inmates and people surviving on governmental assistance, against discrimination.

A workshop meeting called last month by Chairman Rajner for the sake of gathering more information for board members about homelessness from the Continuum of Care Board was very well-received. The Human Rights Board is the body which ultimately will advise the County Commission on the question of taking up the proposed amendment as an agenda item. The 9-member Commission would then, we hope, vote the amendment proposal into law.

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FIU Dean: If You Won’t Call In, We’ll Call You Out …Again

This past Monday, October 22nd Alliance called on FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality Dean Mike Hampton to speak out against Fort Lauderdale’s criminalization of food sharing as the city expends $65,000 to support South Beach Wine and Food Festival events, with which FIU is embedded both as sponsor and beneficiary, to take place on Ft. Lauderdale Beach next week.

Below is Dean Hampton’s email response to our letter, followed by our reply to that, which we find to be lacking:

Mr. Weinberger –
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me.
As a university, we’re sensitive in a great many ways to the issue of hunger in our community; and, we have an established tradition of working with local food rescue organizations to ensure that leftover food reaches those in need. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival® specifically has worked with Feeding South Florida for several years, and its sister event in New York City has raised more than nine million dollars in support of the hunger-relief organizations No Kid Hungry® and Food Bank For New York City. Additionally, the founder and director for both Festivals, Lee Brian Schrager, is a member of the Board of Directors for Food Bank For New York City.
We appreciate and applaud your like-minded commitment to hunger-relief and wish you the best of luck with your efforts.
Respectfully,

Mike Hampton , Ed.D.
迈克 汉普顿
Dean

PleaseDoNotFeedTheHomeless

Our reply to Dean Hampton:

Dean Hampton,

I’ll begin, as I did in my first communication, by commending you, this time for your and your colleagues’ efforts to satiate the massive hunger experienced by millions of people in our nation who depend on compassionate food sharers for their daily meals.

This, however, was not the intent of my letter to you, which was notably endorsed by a who’s who of individuals connected to organizations whose mission it is to end homelessness, including the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). Our collective and irrevocable goal is also to end the criminalization of those who share food, and more so those with whom they share it, namely folks who are hungry and/or homeless. This was the major point of our letter to you, but it is a point which you have left unaddressed in your response.

I’m attaching a report from NCH from just 16 months ago, “Share No More”, which documents the unconscionable and growing reality of cities across the country which restrict public food sharing. Florida is where at least 12 of these cities are located, more than any other state. At the time of the report’s publication that number was 11, but currently the city of Oakland Park is seeking to stop a food sharing out of a church, All Saints Catholic Mission, which has gone on day in, day out for 25 years. As the report documents, the increase in recent years of laws criminalizing food sharing has been exponential.

Need it be said, we all need food in order to survive. The act of providing food to those who who would otherwise go hungry, or would have to steal to eat, therefore, is no less a need than the food, itself. My home city of Fort Lauderdale and dozens of cities across our country, however, have deemed that act a crime.

It is against this background of Fort Lauderdale’s criminalization of food sharing that the city also has chosen to expend $65,000 on two exclusive food events which your school supports and from which it will benefit, as the events are direct offshoots of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Please don’t remain silent about this misguided and hurtful stance on the part of Fort Laudedale Mayor Jack Seiler and the other City Commissioners! Wiser people than us have recognized the personal price we pay for such silence. But the cost to us as a society is even greater, and is already tragically reflected in the tattered social fabric which comprises US culture today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Again I urge you to publicly take a stand on my city’s punitive regime against its most caring residents, and against those whom we serve.

I’ll leave you with another quote from the great Martin Luther King, Jr.: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

That restructuring will never happen in a world where the best we can do is to remain silent in the face of evil.

Respectfully yours,

Jeff Weinberger
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

P.S. To be fair, I want you to know that all your communication with me on this matter is for public consumption.

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Halfway House Horror Exposure is Tip of an Iceberg

Local 10’s Christina Vasquez’s fine investigation into inhumane abuse at an Oakland Park halfway house, which first aired earlier today, yet exposes the mere tip of an iceberg inside of which systemic negligence and corruption have been frozen for years.

Here’s a link to her story, the basic background for which was provided by October 22nd Alliance: http://www.local10.com/news/sober-home-program

While Arms of Hope has now been exposed as the arms of hell which it is, the failure of government policy and oversight which allow such places to exist are yet a long way from being meaningfully addressed. More essentially, the backwardness and fundamental inequality of our system, which rewards the corrupt beneficiaries of capitalism while it punishes poor and homeless folk with laws that criminalize and marginalize them to the outer edges of society, are the real culprits which too rarely get called out.

O22A ArmsOfHopeWipedCleanWebsite
Screenshot of Arms of Hope website wiped clean
hours after we visited Oakland Park location.

From county and regional Continuum of Care (CoC) Boards, which oversee and fund homelessness programs, to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies which provide the funds. oversight is systemically overlooked.

The CoC’s claim they have ‘discharge plans’ to obtain funding, while what those plans often entail is sending sick people from hospitals, behavioral health facilities and jails to the street. Or to hellholes like Arms of Hope, which Broward County institutions like Fort Lauderdale (psych) Hospital (and many others, according to interviews we conducted) never vetted before referring their needy clients into the halfway house’s abusive grasp.

HUD, meanwhile, is blind to these failures as it allows a series of checked boxes on its funding application to determine whether the CoC’s actually have discharge plans which don’t include people being exiled to the streets or to places like Arms of Hope. Other institutional players, like the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) also can be called to task.

As Local 10’s story describes, BSO deputies responded to 200 calls last year at Arms of Hope’s Oakland Park location. But while BSO deputies were aware of a wide range of crimes and abuse at the facility, having been there an average of four times per week through 2015, it apparently never occurred to any of them that a deeper investigation might be called for.

It also happens that the current chair of Broward’s CoC Board is BSO Captain Scott Russell. When confronted with possible BSO failure of accountability regarding Arms of Hope’s ongoing abuse at last month’s CoC meeting, Russell rejected that suggestion out of hand.

We look forward to a more sensitive and actionable response, in the wake of this story’s airing, at the February meeting of the CoC next Wednesday.

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Food Extravaganzas: $65K; Food Sharing: Illegal!

Jeff Weinberger, Co-founder
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners McKinzie, Roberts, Rogers and Trantalis
Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

February 16, 2016

Dear Mayor Seiler, Commissioners and City Manager Feldman:

While little more than 15 months have passed since enforcement of Fort Lauderdale’s public food sharing restrictions, approved by you on October 22, 2014, rained international scorn down on our beautiful city, it now regrettably appears that both the public and international media backlash which your decision catalyzed is no longer on your minds.

Need you really be reminded of that shameful fiasco? Need you be reminded of the fact that your ordinance was stayed by a judge only a month after its enforcement began? And while you chose not to re-implement the ordinance’s enforcement subsequent to that stay, might that be because you realized you’d made a huge mistake, which also was evidenced by the multitude of lawsuits that the ordinance engendered, your defense of which has so far cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars?

Surely you wouldn’t want to repeat that mistake.

Now, however, not only have we learned of your plan to introduce an amended and still highly-restrictive version of the original ordinance – which is tantamount to a ban on compassion and Biblical mandates to feed the poor – but we see that you’ve allocated no less than $65,000 to supplement high-dollar events connected to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. I imagine you’re all well-aware of Sun-Sentinel columnist Mike Mayo’s take on that expenditure but, if not, here it is: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/michael-mayo-blog/sfl-mayo-fort-lauderdale-food-20160202-story.html

We, too, take exception to your unconscionable decision to invest even one nickel in food events which only the wealthy can afford to attend. But more so we take exception to your appropriating these funds against a backdrop wherein what’s on the table for hungry and homeless folk won’t be food but instead will be restrictions on food sharing. Based on your own actions and statements, it appears that funding “a branded photo opportunity experience” at a $175 Bloody Mary Brunch at the Ritz-Carlton is more important to your agenda than making sure food insecure people aren’t bloody starving.

In light of your decision, which was unanimously affirmed at the February 2 commission meeting, we will publicly be demonstrating at both of the events you’ve chosen to fund – one at the Bonnet House on Feb. 24, the other already referenced on the 28th. We also plan on continuing down this path until Fort Lauderdale embraces a culture of compassion, rather than the culture of cruelty which you’ve greatly advanced, and until affordable housing and equality, rather than unaffordable criminalization of unhoused people and their supporters, become the order of the day.

Respectfully yours,

Jeff Weinberger
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

Endorsed by the following:

Megan Hustings, Director
National Coalition for the Homeless

Reverend Craig Watts
Royal Palm Church/Member October 22nd Alliance

Reverend Gail Tapscott
Unitarian Universalist Minister/Member October 22nd Alliance

Pastor Frank Pontillo
REMAR USA

Sean Cononie
The Homeless Voice Newspaper

Father Bob Caudill
All Saints Catholic Mission and Soup Kitchen

Pastor Dwayne Black
The Sanctuary Church

Professor Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez
St. Thomas University School of Law

Paul Boden, Executive Director
Western Regional Advocacy Project

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)
Carmen Kunze, Organizer
Food Not Bombs (West Palm Beach)

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)

Reverend Bruce Wright
Poor People’s Campaign (St. Petersburg)

Teresa Pugliese, Co-founder
Speak Up Florida (Orlando)

Dr. Arthur Carl, Director
Harbourview House Mission

Lynn Lewis, Executive Director
Picture the Homeless (NYC)

Aaron Jackson
CNN Hero and Director of Planting Peace, Inc.

Bryan Ellis
ANSWER Coalition (Sarasota)

James Jones
Pinellas Greens/Gulfcoast Greens

Barbara Wright
The Refuge (St. Pete)

Robert Schuster
The COSAC Foundation Inc

Reverend Lawrence Lacy
Senior Pastor, The Answer Church (Hollywood, FL)
Testimonial: “I certify that I’m in support of the letter and a collaborated effort to bring a heightened awareness to the general public regarding the plight of the homeless in these United States and exclusively to those who reside in the streets of the city of Fort Lauderdale and those surrounding municipalities.”

Roger Wickham
Co-Director, AMERICAN VETERANS OF THE IRAQ WAR NATIONAL HOMELESS COALITION, INC

Krown Deon
Revolutionary Road Radio Show

Christina Wright
Students for a Democratic Society at USF St. Pete

Jessica Biedron, Juris Doctor Candidate 2017
St. Thomas University School of Law

Ken Churchill, Author
American Homeless Land Model

DeBorah Gilbert White Ph.D., Founder/Coordinator
HerStory Ensemble (Delaware)

Josh Loomis Ph.D., Professor of Biology
East Stroudsburg University
Formerly 10-year social services volunteer at Jubilee Center (Hollywood, FL)

Don Sawyer, Director/Producer
A Bigger Vision, LLC

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Food “Unrest-for-the-Dispossessed” Fest storms down on Twitter

October 22nd Alliance is happy to announce the 1st Annual Fort Lauderdale Food “Unrest-for-the-Dispossessed” Fest. The festival is essentially a campaign to call out city officials, who seek to re-implement a public food sharing ban that was put on hold in December, 2014, for spending $65,000 on two high-dollar food events connected to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Those events will take place at the historic Bonnett House on Feb. 24, and the Ritz-Carlton on the 28th. Both venues are on Ft. Lauderdale Beach.

Here’s a link to the Fest’s Facebook page, where info and tweeting info also can be found. Tweet tweet!

Calling all rebellious Tweeters! (And defenders of the dispossessed.)

Posted by Shem Sole on Monday, February 15, 2016

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Dean Mike Hampton, Reject Fort Lauderdale’s Criminalization of Compassion!

Jeff Weinberger, Co-founder
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dean Mike Hampton, Ed.D.
Florida International University
Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

Dear Dean Hampton:

I am writing to you today regarding a matter of great concern to those who, like me, struggle in support of the most downtrodden citizens of our city of Fort Lauderdale and beyond. I would be remiss, however, to not begin by acknowledging the breadth of your and the Chaplin School’s accomplishments over a wide range of hospitality and food-related issues, which haven’t excluded a concern for social justice.

Perhaps the most widely known of these accomplishments has been your involvement in bringing the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to a level of international prominence which is virtually unequaled. I imagine that you, your staff and your students must all be very excited as the 2016 event will be kicking off next week.

The city where I live, Fort Lauderdale, for the first time will also be hosting a couple of events which are tied to the main festival. A Seaside Eats dinner at the historic Bonnet House on February 24, and a Bloody Mary Brunch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the 28th, each hosted by celebrity chefs from the Food Network, will no doubt expand the flavor of the main event on South Beach. But this is also where our concern comes onto the menu.

A summary of that concern can be found here, in this piece from Mike Mayo, columnist for the Sun-Sentinel, published two weeks ago: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/michael-mayo-blog/sfl-mayo-fort-lauderdale-food-20160202-story.html

I and members of our group, the October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness, are only some of the hundreds of citizens in our community and beyond who have been appalled at Fort Lauderdale’s treatment of its unhoused population for a number of years. The year 2014 attained a pinnacle of abuse, as our City Commission passed a series of five ordinances criminalizing homeless folk in a period of less than six months. Capping that off, on October 22nd, 2014, was the passage of a food sharing ordinance which was tantamount to a ban on public food sharing.

Eleven days later, when enforcement of the ordinance began, then 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, two clergymen and one of his helpers in the nonprofit he’d founded over 20 years ago, Love Thy Neighbor, were issued citations by Fort Lauderdale police for engaging in nothing more than an act of kindness, let alone what for some of them is a Biblical mandate to feed the poor. (Over the next ten days Arnold Abbott would be issued two more citations for sharing food; others were cited as well.) As a freelance journalist, I wrote the following for New Times, a story which spread and ultimately led to international scorn being heaped on our city: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/news/video-a-90-year-old-and-two-clergymen-cited-face-possible-jail-time-for-feeding-the-homeless-in-fort-lauderdale-updated-6471412

While enforcement of this ordinance was stayed by a judicial injunction 30 days later, and it hasn’t been enforced at all since early December, 2014, the city is now preparing to reintroduce an amended version of the ordinance. We understand that it will again comprise unacceptable restrictions on public food sharing, including a mandate to obtain permits, to pay fees and other limitations. This plan comes while the city still faces four unresolved lawsuits stemming from its enforcement of the original ordinance, and with the guarantee of a renewed public outcry and media firestorm.

The upshot of this is that we feel compelled to call on you, your staff and your students to publicly stand against the city of Fort Lauderdale’s expenditure of $65,000 to support a food festival to which your esteemed university’s name is prominently attached. While at the same time the city’s most salient investment in its homeless population and those who care for them is a punitive regime, this appropriation is unacceptable. And while the totality of costs that will result from the city’s callousness is virtually incalculable, at least one of those costs is quantifiable. That would be the much more than $65,000 it already has spent, and will spend, on outside and internal legal support in defense of its intentions to ban public food sharing in Fort Lauderdale.

We will publicly be protesting both Fort Lauderdale events on the basis of the city’s history of abuse of its most needy and caring citizens, as outlined above, and for its $65,000 expenditure against the backdrop of that history. In this endeavor we also have the full backing of a statewide alliance which I helped found, the Florida Homelessness Action Coalition, as well as two of the largest homelessness advocacy organizations in the country, the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

We therefore ask you to recognize that while you may play a key part in, and may be a beneficiary of what we all hope will be a wonderful food event for those able to partake, you need not endorse, by remaining silent, the shortsighted policies enacted by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, led by Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler.

Respectfully yours,

Jeff Weinberger
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

Endorsed by the following:

Megan Hustings, Director
National Coalition for the Homeless

Laura Hansen, CEO
Coalition to End Homelessness (Broward County)

Reverend Craig Watts
Royal Palm Church/Member October 22nd Alliance

Reverend Gail Tapscott
Unitarian Universalist Minister/Member October 22nd Alliance

Pastor Frank Pontillo
REMAR USA

Sean Cononie
The Homeless Voice Newspaper

Father Bob Caudill
All Saints Catholic Mission and Soup Kitchen (Oakland Park)

Pastor Dwayne Black
The Sanctuary Church (Fort Lauderdale)

Professor Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez
St. Thomas University School of Law

Paul Boden, Executive Director
Western Regional Advocacy Project

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)

Reverend Bruce Wright
Poor People’s Campaign (St. Petersburg)

Teresa Pugliese, Co-founder
Speak Up Florida (Orlando)

Carmen Kunze, Organizer
Food Not Bombs (West Palm Beach)

Bryan Ellis
ANSWER Coalition (Sarasota)

Jacob Reiter, Executive Director
Tallahassee-Leon Shelter

Aaron Jackson
CNN Hero and Director of Planting Peace, Inc.

James Jones
Pinellas Greens/Gulfcoast Greens

Barbara Wright
The Refuge (St. Pete)

Robert Schuster
The COSAC Foundation Inc

Dr. Arthur Carl, Director
Harbourview House Mission

Reverend Lawrence Lacy
Senior Pastor, The Answer Church (Hollywood, FL)
Testimonial: “I certify that I’m in support of the letter and a collaborated effort to bring a heightened awareness to the general public regarding the plight of the homeless in these United States and exclusively to those who reside in the streets of the city of Fort Lauderdale and those surrounding municipalities.”

Roger Wickham, Co-Director
AMERICAN VETERANS OF THE IRAQ WAR NATIONAL HOMELESS COALITION, INC

Krown Deon
Revolutionary Road Radio Show

Christina Wright
Students for a Democratic Society at USF St. Pete

Jessica Biedron, Juris Doctor Candidate 2017
St. Thomas University School of Law

Ken Churchill, Author
American Homeless Land Model

DeBorah Gilbert White Ph.D., Founder/Coordinator
HerStory Ensemble (Delaware)

Josh Loomis Ph.D., Professor of Biology
East Stroudsburg University
Formerly 10-year social services volunteer at Jubilee Center (Hollywood, FL)

Don Sawyer, Director/Producer
A Bigger Vision, LLC

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Food Network Chefs Robert Irvine and “Chopped” Cast Members, Reject Fort Lauderdale’s Criminalization of Compassion!

Jeff Weinberger
Co-founder, October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Chef Robert Irvine, Host of Restaurant: Impossible
Chef Ted Allen, Host of Chopped
Judges and Chefs of Chopped
The Food Network

Dear Chefs Robert Irvine, Ted Allen and all:

I am writing to you today regarding a matter of great concern to those who, like me, struggle in support of the most downtrodden citizens of our city of Fort Lauderdale and beyond.

I would be remiss, however, to not begin by acknowledging your magnificent accomplishments in the culinary world and, through your Food Network shows, Restaurant: Impossible and Chopped, the joyful and exciting ways in which you’ve edified the pallets of millions of lovers of good food the world over. You can count us among them.

Another way in which you’ve spread the love of good food is by bringing your talents to the people by hosting events like those planned for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. I imagine that you and your retinues of chefs must all be very excited as the 2016 event, one of the biggest in the world, will be kicking off next week.

The city where I live, Fort Lauderdale, for the first time will also be hosting a couple of events which are tied to the main festival. The Seaside Eats dinner at the historic Bonnet House on February 24, hosted by Chef Irvine, and the Bloody Mary Brunch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the 28th, hosted by the cast of Chopped, will no doubt expand the flavor of the main event on South Beach. But this is also where our concern comes onto the menu.

A summary of that concern can be found here, in this piece from Mike Mayo, columnist for the Sun-Sentinel, published two weeks ago: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/michael-mayo-blog/sfl-mayo-fort-lauderdale-food-20160202-story.html

I and members of our group, the October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness, are only some of the hundreds of citizens in our community and beyond who have been appalled at Fort Lauderdale’s treatment of its unhoused population for a number of years. The year 2014 attained a pinnacle of abuse, as our City Commission passed a series of five ordinances criminalizing homeless folk in a period of less than six months. Capping that off, on October 22nd, 2014, was the passage of a food sharing ordinance which was tantamount to a ban on public food sharing.

Eleven days later, when enforcement of the ordinance began, then 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, two clergymen and one of his helpers in the nonprofit he’d founded over 20 years ago, Love Thy Neighbor, were issued citations by Fort Lauderdale police for engaging in nothing more than an act of kindness, let alone what for some of them is a Biblical mandate to feed the poor. (Over the next ten days Arnold Abbott would be issued two more citations for sharing food; others were cited as well.) As a freelance journalist, I wrote the following for New Times, a story which spread and ultimately led to international scorn being heaped on our city: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/news/video-a-90-year-old-and-two-clergymen-cited-face-possible-jail-time-for-feeding-the-homeless-in-fort-lauderdale-updated-6471412

While enforcement of this ordinance was stayed by a judicial injunction 30 days later, and it hasn’t been enforced at all since early December, 2014, the city is now preparing to reintroduce an amended version of the ordinance. We understand that it will again comprise unacceptable restrictions on public food sharing, including a mandate to obtain permits, to pay fees and other limitations. This plan comes while the city still faces four unresolved lawsuits stemming from its enforcement of the original ordinance, and with the guarantee of a renewed public outcry and media firestorm.

The upshot of this is that we feel compelled to call on you, Chef Robert Irvine and Chef Ted Allen and your crew, to publicly stand against the city of Fort Lauderdale’s expenditure of $65,000 to support food events to which your esteemed names are prominently attached. While at the same time the city’s most salient investment in its homeless population and those who care for them is a punitive regime, this appropriation is unacceptable. And while the totality of costs that will result from the city’s callousness is virtually incalculable, at least one of those costs is quantifiable. That would be the much more than $65,000 it already has spent, and will spend, on outside and internal legal support in defense of its intentions to ban public food sharing in Fort Lauderdale.

We will publicly be protesting both Fort Lauderdale events on the basis of the city’s history of abuse of its most needy and caring citizens, as outlined above, and for its $65,000 expenditure against the backdrop of that history. In this endeavor we also have the full backing of a statewide alliance which I helped found, the Florida Homelessness Action Coalition, as well as two of the largest homelessness advocacy organizations in the country, the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

We therefore ask you to recognize that while you may play a key part in, and may be the beneficiaries of what we all hope will be wonderful food events for those able to partake, you need not endorse, by remaining silent, the shortsighted policies enacted by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, led by Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler.

Respectfully yours,

Jeff Weinberger
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

Endorsed by the following:

Megan Hustings, Director
National Coalition for the Homeless

Laura Hansen, CEO
Coalition to End Homelessness (Broward County)

Reverend Craig Watts
Royal Palm Church/Member October 22nd Alliance

Reverend Gail Tapscott
Unitarian Universalist Minister/Member October 22nd Alliance

Pastor Frank Pontillo
REMAR USA

Sean Cononie
The Homeless Voice Newspaper

Father Bob Caudill
All Saints Catholic Mission and Soup Kitchen

Pastor Dwayne Black
The Sanctuary Church

Professor Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez
St. Thomas University School of Law

Paul Boden, Executive Director
Western Regional Advocacy Project

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)

Reverend Bruce Wright
Poor People’s Campaign (St. Petersburg)
Teresa Pugliese, Co-founder
Speak Up Florida (Orlando)

Carmen Kunze, Organizer
Food Not Bombs (West Palm Beach)

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)

Reverend Bruce Wright
Poor People’s Campaign (St. Petersburg)

Teresa Pugliese, Co-founder
Speak Up Florida (Orlando)

Aaron Jackson
CNN Hero and Director of Planting Peace, Inc.

Bryan Ellis
ANSWER Coalition (Sarasota)

James Jones
Pinellas Greens/Gulfcoast Greens

Barbara Wright
The Refuge (St. Pete)

Robert Schuster
The COSAC Foundation Inc

Dr. Arthur Carl, Director
Harbourview House Mission

 

Reverend Lawrence Lacy
Senior Pastor, The Answer Church (Hollywood, FL)
Testimonial: “I certify that I’m in support of the letter and a collaborated effort to bring a heightened awareness to the general public regarding the plight of the homeless in these United States and exclusively to those who reside in the streets of the city of Fort Lauderdale and those surrounding municipalities.”

Roger Wickham
Co-Director, AMERICAN VETERANS OF THE IRAQ WAR NATIONAL HOMELESS COALITION, INC

Krown Deon
Revolutionary Road Radio Show

Christina Wright
Students for a Democratic Society at USF St. Pete

Jessica Biedron, Juris Doctor Candidate 2017
St. Thomas University School of Law

Ken Churchill, Author
American Homeless Land Model

DeBorah Gilbert White Ph.D., Founder/Coordinator
HerStory Ensemble (Delaware)

Josh Loomis Ph.D., Professor of Biology
East Stroudsburg University
Formerly 10-year social services volunteer at Jubilee Center (Hollywood, FL)

Don Sawyer, Director/Producer
A Bigger Vision, LLC

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