In what came down to an all-nighter, Fort Lauderdale commissioners voted to approve a new ordinance that sets restrictions on how churches and groups can feed the city's homeless.
Commissioners met on Tuesday and went well into Wednesday morning, ending their meeting at 3:30 a.m. after having heard from advocacy groups and citizens calling on them not to pass the ordinance.
With protesters chanting outside City Hall, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of the new regulations, with Dean Trantalis as the only dissenting vote. And while the ordinance will officially become law on October 31, homeless advocates have already announced that they'll be feeding the homeless anyway.
The new ordinance deals primarily with how groups go about serving food to the homeless, such as rules on food handling, providing toilet facilities and hand-washing areas, and requirements on how and when the food should be served, particularly for groups that service the homeless outdoors and in parks.
Homeless advocates say the restrictions are too cumbersome and will cripple their efforts to provide food for those in need.
The 4-1 vote makes this the fifth ordinance that criminalizes homelessness in some form in Fort Lauderdale in the past six months.
Commissioners have already passed an ordinance giving police the authority to confiscate a homeless person's possessions after a 24-hour notice and keep the possessions in storage until the person either pays a fee or can prove that he or she has no means to pay that fee.
There's also the encampment ordinance, which prevents the homeless from sleeping, eating, and encamping themselves in a public area with their belongings.
Still, homeless advocate group Food Not Bombs remains defiant even in the face of the new law being put forth.
The group has started a Facebook page titled "Resist the Sharing Ban in Fort Lauderdale." The page invites anyone who disagrees with the law to show up on Friday, October 31, to openly feed the city's homeless.
Since the date happens to fall on Halloween night, the group is calling for people to show up dressed as food.
"The Fort Lauderdale sharing ban is law," the Facebook page reads. "It falls on Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs to greet the City on Halloween at our weekly sharing with our middle fingers fully extended and fight for our rights. And it's Halloween... bring costumes! If you don't have one yet, come dressed as FOOD."
The commissioners were met with protesters Tuesday night who chanted things at Mayor Jack Seiler.
"Blood, blood, blood on your hands. Shame, shame, shame on Seiler," they chanted. "Hey, Jack, what do you say? How many homeless did you starve today?"
According to Nathan Pim of Food Not Bombs, the commissioners also intend on stretching the ordinance beyond the downtown area.
"They said they would revisit the ordinance in 90 days to make this citywide instead of just downtown," Pim told New Times.
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