Though 70-something now, Abbott began his community work at the age of nine by writing a letter to the Boston Traveler against capital punishment. Abbott stated, "The death penalty is only for the poor and not the rich." He added, "I have always been fighting for the underdog."
In the 1950's Arnold Abbott started the first fair housing committee in Pennsylvania. He was involved in politics for over 18 years, and served as Police Commissioner. He never lost an election; in fact where he lived, he was the first Democrat elected in 120 years. He was also twice elected delegate for the Democratic National Convention in 1964 and 1968. In 1960 he worked to register the black population to vote; Abbott is proud to be part of that history.
With his wife Maureen, he fed the poor on a regular basis. When Maureen, his angel, died in 1991, he made an organized attempt to formally feed the homeless in Broward County by increasing and expanding his operations. In memory of his angel he founded Love Thy Neighbor.
Since then, Love Thy Neighbor has served thousands of meals to help the poor in Broward County. In fact, Mr. Abbott helped to relieve the stress on Broward County by organizing all the feeding at the Broward County Tent City project. If merchants complained that there was a lot of homeless people in front of their stores begging for food, Arnold would increase the feedings. He became the number one provider of feeding the poor in the state.
After the creation of the Homeless Assistance Center in Fort Lauderdale and the closing of Tent City (in February 1999) where almost 300 homeless people lived, the players thought his services were no longer needed. This was a problem, however, since there are an estimated 6300 homeless people living in Broward County and the Homeless Assistance Center only provided 200 beds.
Why would someone want to feed the poor and homeless? One reason is that it is the religious right to feed the poor. Another is that it is only humane to feed those who have no food. One would think residents would be pleased to have someone help feed the poor to eliminate the problem of homeless people looking through dumpsters to find their next meal.
Why would the City of Fort Lauderdale want to stop this man from helping after so many years? The answer might be NIMBY. You know, Not in My Back Yard! If that's the case we have to ask, "Then whose back yard?" Was this an attack on the poor and homeless?
If Arnold Abbott wins this case, it will become a legal case precedent in cities across the nation whenever someone tries to take the rights of homeless people away. If he loses, we will see a national trend of cities restricting the rights of homeless.
Attorney John David's outstanding closing argument leaves us with the hope and belief that Arnold Abbott will soon be back on the beach feeding his homeless friends.
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