Then the police "raid" happened in February. Tensions in the house threatened to distract the Food Not Bombs members from the good they had been doing. Meanwhile, homeless people still needed food from somebody.

The lease at the SWAMP Collective is up in October. The residents will need to pack up the pots and pans and the lending library and move on.

Becker and Johnson, who are dating now, intend to travel and earn some money working on organic farms. But Becker doesn't intend to abandon Fort Lauderdale for good. "I'm going to do that for a little while, then come back and really try to start up an alternative scene."

Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry being arrested for the first time, in San Francisco on August 15, 1988. He has counted 150 arrests since then.
Courtesy of Keith McHenry
Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry being arrested for the first time, in San Francisco on August 15, 1988. He has counted 150 arrests since then.
Marc Silverstein and Brian Sprinkle, who founded Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs in 2006.
Michael McElroy
Marc Silverstein and Brian Sprinkle, who founded Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs in 2006.

Fort Lauderdale is hardly a kind spot for activism. Radicals either grow up and get jobs or move away. "There's a reason people leave," Becker says. "But I want to change that."


"They lived in a rundown house in a rough neighborhood. They had very little money and no political power at all. They had nothing to support their bold belief, other than youthful optimism and a marginal grip on 'reality.' "

That's a description of McHenry's original Boston-based Food Not Bombs group in the early '80s. It was written by Jo Swanson, another Food Not Bombs founder who now lives in Durango, Colorado, in her preface to McHenry's latest book. Her words could just as easily describe the SWAMP house today.

McHenry says that when he visited the house, he was shocked by the similarities with his younger days. "Phil and Haylee really remind me of myself and my girlfriend at that age," he says. "A lot of kids ask me how I ended up doing this for 30 years. It's not easy, living in poverty all the time... but it's funny: There's always a Phil and Haylee that I connect with, every few years, in branches all over the world."

It's unclear whether these young activists, like McHenry, will stay involved with Food Not Bombs as they grow older. Reality threatens.

In early August, the SWAMP Collective hosted a day of political and creative workshops that culminated in a punk show and TV-smashing party. While a thunderstorm raged outside, Becker and Johnson held a meeting in the living room on the future of Food Not Bombs. They asked who would be willing to take over the group when they leave to travel.

After a moment, Sprinkle and Silverstein, the chapter's founders, volunteered. Becker was satisfied with the handover — "I love Brian," she says — and the group disbanded to the backyard, where they listened to music and put on a puppet show, featuring Dan the Pand­archist (whose repertoire is available on YouTube) instructing people how to forsake mass media in favor of do-it-yourself entertainment. Later, they smashed television sets they had found on Craigslist, then spray-painted them and filled them with dirt. Then there was fire-spinning and folk-singing and conversation late into the night. The homeless people who had been at the weekly sharing were invited too.

City Attorney Stewart says Fort Lauderdale is still researching ways to require people to share food only in a specific spot. "We plan to have some kind of report back to the City Commission in three to six months," he said in August. "We want to mirror [the Orlando ordinance] as much as we can, so at least we have an argument when we get sued."

Arnold Abbott, the instigator of all these legal troubles, doesn't believe the city will ever be able to find a perfect distribution spot. "I don't think there will ever be somebody who says, 'Yeah, my backyard's available.' " He continues, "It took five court battles for us to win the right to stay on the beach, and it'll take further legal action to get us off."

In June, Cate McCaffrey, the city's director of business enterprises and a member of the task force, offered to meet with Food Not Bombs members to hear their feedback. Becker invited her to a sharing at the park.

McCaffrey arrived at the gazebo and talked with Becker, who was distributing food. Becker says, "I told her I had to go get something from the car and held the spoon out to her and was like, 'Can you hold this for a second?' "

McCaffrey found herself serving food to the people whom her bosses might soon banish from the park. Later, she sat in the consensus meeting and raised her hand when she wanted to speak.

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46 comments
FQS9000
FQS9000

Eat Do-Gooder should be REQUIRED to take 5 or 6 "homeless" people home with him so they can sleep, poop, barf and stink up their own lawn.  Fair is fair after all.

WorkingGuy
WorkingGuy

LOL Bukker = word police!  ;)

feeding the hungry is good, but teaching them to feed themselves would be better. 

Al they are doing is enabling poor to survive.  This is the low hanging fruit of the poor.

its kinda like a welfare program, when you give someone something you feel good, but haven't really helped or changed the situation.

so for the FNB people, they feel good that they feed some folks for a few days... but then what happens when they stop or move on?  how did you change the life of the poor?

how doing something to change the situation, like some skills training?

 

Shaktas Na
Shaktas Na

Um...FNB is associated with a lot of training and social programs. In Sacramento they are affiliated with Fishes and Loaves.

So research before you speak. 

Bebep
Bebep

Like Nanook said, are you going to volunteer to teach them skills WorkingGuy?

Probably not, but if you do then you might be on to something.

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Would they arrest protesters if their signs read "Bombs not Food"? My guess would be no.

Shaktas Na
Shaktas Na

Why don't you people actually contact a person at FNB and find out what other associations they work with? Every FNB is affiliated with skills and training programs.

Bukkler
Bukkler

"The reason for the arrests? For years, residents near the park had complained that after the meals, homeless people disbursed into their neighborhood"Christ, do you people have any journalistic standards at all? I swear, you must be of the generation that believes that if MS Word doesn't flag it, it isn't wrong. "disbursed" means "Given funds, especially previously -allocated ones." The word you're looking for is "Dispersed", which means "spread out." God, the state of web-based journalism is miserable.

Bebep
Bebep

Oh my god a typo!!!!! This is ridiculous!!!! That makes this article completely false and misleading!!!!

You're a disbursed douchebag Bukkler!

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

You're correct -- fixed. Ten judges with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals used "disbursed" as well (http://goo.gl/X9FRv), thus the mistake. Also, chill out.

Ray Del Papa
Ray Del Papa

I wish we had more young people like those in FNB. To many are cought up in the miteralistic rat race. The more the disparaty betwwen rich and poor widens the more people will be put on the street. And who will help, not the goverment!

WorkingGuy
WorkingGuy

How about Linux training?  what's linux you ask?  A computer language a lot of phones and computers use.  if you have those skills you can get a job.

smart people can still find a job.  low skilled people, are competing with china for jobs.. Education is the answer. 

Everyone has an opportunity to get smarter and earn good incomes.   

its up to you, how you choose to live your life... 

nanook5
nanook5

the minute enough people want to contribute to the point that full-time volunteers can afford to train homeless people on computers i'm sure we can get started.

are you intending on helping make that happen? no? ohhhh, so you're just one of a million people who criticize without actually contributing to help the problem in any way whatsoever. how surprising.

WorkingGuy
WorkingGuy

want to feed the homeless in Ft Laud?  Do it at Holiday park, not Stranahan park.

The homeless are NOT harmless.  They are aggressive, and swarm around cars at the light, looking for money. 

this in turn deters business, and tourist from coming to downtown, taking away commerce, and lowering those that do earn money,  incomes.

This is just another enabler of the homeless.  want to help, teach them a skill so they can earn their own food.

Sorry, no sympathy for food not bombs. 

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Suppose you become JoblessGuy? Somebody else's neighborhood is somebody else's neighborhood.

nanook5
nanook5

haters gotta hate.

as usual, you're perfectly willing to ignore the central conceit of fnb - no one has to go hungry in america. we produce more than enough for everyone, and your apathy to the waste amounts to denying food to the needy.

 
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