Homeless Advocacy vs. City Hall

As part of an ongoing campaign to raise the profile of systemic harassment and displacement of homeless people in the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, FNB activists will be using the city’s own presentation time at their bi-monthly commission meetings to show the Mayor and city commissioners the results of their anti-homeless policies. The meeting starts 6 pm on Tuesday, February 5th at Fort Lauderdale City Hall.

However, what does this mean as a tactic in general for Food Not Bombs groups and homeless advocates? Categorizing the homeless as “undesirables” and pushing them out of their borders has been the institutionalized reaction for decades for cities across Florida, California, and really almost all of the US.


To underscore just how severe anti-homeless attitudes pervade these cities, here’s some FORT LAUDERDALE MAYORAL FUN FACTS:

  • 65753_336577719711893_279613589_nMayor Bob Cox in 1981 suggested pouring kerosene into dumpsters to discourage scavenging.
  • Mayor Jim Naugle in 1993 ordered a homeless camp in Holiday Park closed without offering any indoor alternative. At that time, down the street from the park, a $500,000 stable for police horses was being built.
  • Mayor Jack Seiler in 2010, while discussing ways to crack down on homeless panhandling, complained that he couldn’t even get a Big Mac at the nearby McDonald’s drive-through without being asked for money by a homeless person. Soon after the city spent $27,000 on signs that were put up all over downtown, pictured right.

So no one should expect a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment. But it is important for FNB activists, even if they may not have a favorable view of city governance, to make use of these opportunities – it is often the only way to pressure city officials to deal with homeless issues progressively at all. To leave it otherwise means that they will only be discussing homelessness when they find time to pass another ordinance discriminating against them, such as the infamous sharing bans that have been effecting cities such as Orlando, Philadelphia, Houston, and more. Organizing actions at city public events and speaking to churches and homeless service groups are other proactive tactics to demand action for homeless rights.

Let’s here from other FNB’ers out there – what tactics do you use to advocate for the homeless? Posting on this blog is free to FNB advocates worldwide – create a login and write about your experiences! (If your post isn’t quickly approved send an e-mail to swampzine at gmail dot com and we’ll get it up straight away)