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November 13, 2014

Laws on Feeding Homeless Spur Activism in Fla. Cities

The New York Times reports on grappling between samaritans and local officials in Florida cities over restrictions on feeding homeless people in public places. The latest controversy was ignited by a series of criminal citations issued by Fort Lauderdale police to a 90-year-old activist for serving meals on the city's main beach.

The Fort Lauderdale dispute is playing out amid a growing debate in Florida, which, with its warm winter climate, draws a disproportionate share of the homeless, fueling complaints about litter, public urination, and other ills in towns with a lot of tourism, the Times says.

Homelessness activists say Florida cities have grown more aggressive in passing ordinances against sleeping and serving meals in public, which they contend criminalize homelessness. Fort Lauderdale is among a few cities that are pursuing a less punitive approach, balancing such restrictions with efforts to move homeless services indoors and increased funding for aid programs and low-cost housing.