Ridiculous Laws to Tackle an Intractable Problem

Arnold P Abbott arrested for feeding homeless (Pic courtesy: Reuters)

Arnold P Abbott arrested for feeding homeless (Pic courtesy: Reuters)

Sharing & giving food to the impoverished are considered as altruistic behavior, but those compassionate acts are considered a crime in 21 US cities. Ninety year old World War II veteran, Arnold Abbot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was arrested twice for feeding the homeless in the city’s park & beaches. He has been feeding the poor for decades, but a new ordinance passed last month banned outdoor feeding. Joan Chever, a San-Antonio woman, who feeds hot plates of food to homeless, was fined $2,000.

Known as ‘Feeding Bans’, at least 71 US cities are said to be attempting to pass ordinance that restricts food-sharing. Various church groups are also threatened with huge fine & arrests for serving food to poor. Many of the city lobbyists and Mayors are arguing that feeding people on the streets perpetuates homelessness. Such ridiculous statements try to argue that homeless people would choose other luxurious ways to live, if they aren’t fed on public. These cities are hoping that restricting food sharing may make the homeless to shift out of town. The government just wants to get rid of homeless people; not the societal ills, unemployment, or the massive social inequality that spawns homelessness.


Feeding bans are just the latest episode in the long running battle for common space. Anti-homeless spikes in may European & American cities caused furor, but the real-estate giants & local government under the pretense of curbing ‘loitering’ just commodified the public spaces. Keeping the homeless people out of sight is considered to be a vital step for boosting the cities’ real estate investment & tourism. These stamping down regulations are just a colonization of the common public space to make it safe for the rich.

Low income tenants could be easily displaced by citing the government’s development & zoning policies, but to deploy homeless ones, extra care is given in the form of ‘nuisance laws’ ‘vice raids’ or the most recent ‘feeding bans’. Apart from loitering & begging, even sleeping in one’s own car is considered illegal in 43 percent of US cities. It is true that few social elements cause disorder & chaos in the cities, but simply erasing them from the picture doesn’t solve any actual problem. Excluding working-class or impoverished people from public spaces is going to degrade both the urban landscape & personal mind-scape.

some of anti-homeless structures in European cities

some of anti-homeless structures in European cities

Of course, handing food to homeless isn’t a long-term solution to eradicate homelessness or poverty. At the same time, halting such charitable acts doesn’t give new option for the homeless. Laws criminalizing poverty can only stem from inhumane mind, thinking to uphold their own business interests. Around 600,000 US citizens are without home and a quarter of them are children. A survey from National Low Income Housing Coalition cites joblessness, stagnant wages & ever-increasing rents as the vital reasons for homelessness. Government could confront poverty, battling it head-on by investing in more affordable housing for low & very-low income people. But, these feeding bans & spikes are just an effort to hide the problem from public view.

Privileged humans have always absurdly built walls & fences, thinking that it is the only solution to complex problems. So, it’s no wonder that the politicians, profit-thirsty corporates, and lobbyists are resorting to farcical methods.


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