Having watched the slow-motion war on the homeless of downtown Fort Lauderdale for a little over two years now, I can safely say that all the worst aspects of bigotry, discrimination, and oppression in America are alive and well in 2012. Today if you are to level the kind of rancor the Fort Lauderdale City Commission holds to its homeless citizens towards a woman, gay person, or Muslim, you would be confronted in strong terms almost anywhere.
And yet today, Fort Lauderdale's message is that it is so important to not give a homeless person a buck that they want to spend over 25,000 of said bucks to remind people not to do it!
The images speak for themselves. They're a sham, a mockery, a dereliction of everything a society should stand for. The City, from talk of sharing bans to discriminatory enforcement of petty misdemeanors would have you believe that they are protecting families and tourists from dangerous homeless people. But the pattern across the country has been all too obvious; whereever there is a chamber of commerce, or a downtown development (or re-development) board, there is institutionalized harassment of the homeless by the city police. There are "homeless task forces" that squabble over removing park benches and implementing no-smoking bans. And there are indifferent and apathetic city officials who for some reason are highly motivated to push costly and offensive measures through budgets that never reach people who need them. In this case, the desired result is prevent what are arguably the poorest people in the city from getting what little they have left.
There are even harassment and arrests of those who support them. Food Not Bombs members in Fort Lauderdale have been surveilled, harassed, arrested, and in one case had their home broken into without a warrant by the FLPD.
Unfortunately this is part of the cost of being in this "business"; especially compared to FNB compatriots who have been tortured or murdered in other parts of the world.
It is happening all over. And as usual, it is those who are fearmongering over phantom dangers that are the ones who are truly dangerous. Broward County, more than almost any place in America, has contributed to the homeless epidemic by protecting and strengthening the banks who are creating the foreclosure crisis. The developments going up along Broward Boulevard further gentrify downtown neighborhoods, promoting a Fort Lauderdale that is safe and luxurious for those who can afford it. The banks and chain restaurants dominating downtown Fort Lauderdale have eradicated small business nation-wide and all credence is giving to these "job creators" over those who are actually unemployed. Constant jail time for those that sleep in public, litter, and panhandle do house a person for a couple of days at a time, again at tremendous expense to the taxpayer... I don't recommend that, either.
Disparately, the state of the homeless population in Fort Lauderdale has seen some improvements lately. Seizing on the desertion of Occupy Fort Lauderdale from its encampment in front of City Hall, as many as 50 homeless people sleep right outside where these terrible decisions are made every night, and the city doesn't seem to know what to do with them. It doesn't take a genius to see that every problem the city has with the homeless is their own; there are tens of thousands of empty homes in the county and tons of wasted food thrown out every day, that people like me deliver to people that need it on a regular basis, for free. That's the message of Food Not Bombs, Occupiers, and homeless advocates everywhere; people over profits! And yet all they can do is find ways to spend more money in order to keep it from those that actually need it. Perhaps we should create our own ads; City Government: Don't Contribute to the Problem.