Around 5:30 on a recent morning, Fort Lauderdale resident Cal Deal grabbed his camera, roamed the Poinciana Park neighborhood, and recorded a man washing his backside with a garden hose.
In that video, which Deal sent to Mayor Jack Seiler and several other city officials, the homeless man rummages through trash, wanders around the neighborhood while talking to himself, and drops his pants to cleanse his rear end.
This, Deal says, is why the city's controversial "anti-homeless" laws, including the ordinance that will criminalize public feedings without portable toilets, are needed.
"The people feeding them are enablers, and they enable the homeless by making their lives easier," Deal tells New Times. "Hunger is a big motivator. Are people more likely to seek help when they're hungry or when they're fed and happy?"
Deal has been working hard to get the word out about how the homeless affect the quality of life in Fort Lauderdale. He has taken videos of homeless people being homeless before. And along with this video, the 65-year-old former journalist sent out several pictures of "Crazy Eyes" (Deal gave him that name after seeing him up-close one day) allegedly urinating on a fence and a few more of him walking around, with details about the man's movements. He even gives details about the homeless man's whereabouts:
At 4 a.m. today, Crazy Eyes was back. He walked by my house, which is directly across the street from where he was evicted by police yesterday evening. He was talking to himself, as usual.
At 5 a.m. today, he appeared to be urinating on the side of the First Christian Church. Literally ON the building!
See Deal's video below:
Although it might seem like Deal has it out for Crazy Eyes, he says there are several more like him that add up to a major problem, especially when it comes to the issue of feces.
"Mr. Scrubs" (Deal likes to give the homeless people nicknames) used to wander around Fort Lauderdale in soiled hospital scrubs. They were often so soiled that crusty brown stains could be seen from afar. "I once saw him sit down on a bus bench near my home, and when he left, I went out there with bleach and disinfected it," Deal says.
But on another day, Deal saw Mr. Scrubs pull down his dingy drawers and squat on a traffic median.
"He was doing it right there -- in front of a charter school!" Deal exclaims.
Deal considered Mr. Scrubs a nuisance, but he also considers the man a symbol of how to solve the homeless issue.
Mr. Scrubs had health problems and once had to be taken to the hospital. After the ambulance departed, Deal noticed some of Mr. Scrubs' belongings were left behind and saw a newish transistor radio, which he picked up and brought to the hospital himself.
Deal talked to Mr. Scrubs for a few minutes and learned about his background, including his name and former occupation. But it wasn't long after that he stopped seeing Mr. Scrubs around. Turns out, Mr. Scrubs got into a supportive housing program and hasn't been seen on the streets of Fort Lauderdale since.
"I hope he's doing well for himself and he's back with his family," Deal says.
And it's those programs -- not free food -- that Deal says will help the homeless problem.
But Jeff Weinberger of the Broward Homeless Campaign says blaming the homeless for needing to relieve themselves ignores bigger issues.
"If public health is such a concern, they should petition the government for public restrooms," Weinberg says.
He adds: "I'm sorry their quality of life is affected, but maybe they should direct that anger towards the city commission to provide housing and look at the roots of homelessness, such as there not being enough affordable housing and good-paying jobs."
Despite the ban, Weinberger says he and other advocates for the poor will continue to feed homeless people.
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As for Deal, he says he will continue to record them.
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E-mail him at Ray.Downs@browardpalmbeach.com.