Tuesday, February 21st, saw the unanimous passing of a homeless ordinance that to city officials was an important step towards helping homeless problems, and to many activists at the hearing, an important step towards fascist discrimination against the homeless for the sake of profit. One side would have you believe that the dozen activists that showed up didn’t know what they were talking about and were wasting their time, the other would have you believe that politicians will lie and screw over poor people to protect the profits of the rich. If you’re leaning towards the latter camp, read on.
For a time, the City of Fort Lauderdale had a task force on homeless issues that was mainly interested in how to make the homeless in downtown disappear, although a few had good intentions. After deciding that they needed to ban sharings in downtown Fort Lauderdale and direct all homeless providers to a location that didn’t have too many whiny rich people, the plot vanished without a trace last summer. Coincidentally, Orlando had just gone through with a feeding ban that resulted in numerous unjust arrests, hack attacks, and international scorn on the officials responsible.
Currently, 50 or more homeless people loiter around Stranahan Park all day, and then at night, walk over to the front of City Hall, where they get to sleep under the protection of Occupy Fort Lauderdale (This, by way, is in contrast to a lot of criticism the group has gotten around their work with the homeless. Don’t underestimate those Occupiers!) How long this current situation will last is unsure, but the city has always tried to get rid of the homeless from the area by busting them on trumped up charges, harassing them, and bribing them with bus tickets. The Mayor admitted as much in an article last week in the Sun Sentinel.
The administration had a lot of choice quotes in the article, including ‘”There is no question that merchants and businesses in downtown are asking for and deserve relief,” said Mayor Jack Seiler. “The city has made it clear we will do everything possible.”‘ It was because of this hateful language that so many people came to the City Commission yesterday, and because we know of the pattern of abuse directed at the homeless that is delivered daily by the FLPD.
At least 6 people stood up and spoke in opposition of the ordinance, not because it specifically discriminates against the homeless, but because it is attempting to displace them in accord with the city’s overall position towards homeless issues. Indeed, it is doing this by incentivizing the usage of an alternative shelter for homeless providers, many of whom are churches and non-profits that could use the extra resources. And yet, the City officials went on to ignore and dismiss every criticism sent their way that night and insisted we didn’t know what we were talking about.
They then went on to discuss Stranahan Park separately, off-the-agenda, once most of the activists had left. Increasing police presence in the area and panhandling arrests were discussed. So as usual, it does not seem like a feeding ban is imminent. But the city, acting as lapdogs for rich downtown development interests, continue to violate the human rights of its worst-off citizens every single day as usual, now with another little tool in their repertoire to use against them.
The city commission always gets to pretend to exist in a vacuum where its policies do not create suffering and do not funnel taxpayer funds towards rich and powerful people’s projects. We that have not sold out to these interests will continue to hold you all accountable, but thanks anyway for the free coffee and politeness.
PS, this is a hat-tip to the two men who showed up just to hate on the homeless. “Don’t mess with my dog!” Hilarious.